Belinda Brown: Falling fertility – the price of feminism

The less privileged in our society take the biggest hit from the unintended consequences of feminism. The men without education and employment, the children without a father, the mothers without a partner.

But educated women also pay a very high price.

This is because today’s educated women have bought the feminist mantra and focused on their careers, often leaving babies until it is too late. For example in the US, while 47 per cent of women with no high school diploma have three or more children, 47 per cent of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher have none. Evidence suggests that the patterns in the UK are much the same.

While children might benefit from mothers who put babies first and not their careers, highly educated women are missing out.

There are many contributing factors. Ever since the hard-won family wage was replaced with the living wage, the birth rate has been going down. But we now have wage equality and far more women in the labour force. So I suppose everybody has won.

Tuition fees mean young people are carrying a financial burden even before they launch themselves on the world. This will only add pressure to establishing a career; plus there seems to be an assumption that babies shouldn’t come along until you own your own home.

The hurdles couples have to overcome before they can have a baby means reproduction is pushed into the future – age of first birth creeps up, with the result that the number of children which women have goes down.

Fertility starts to decline at 30, by 35 it declines steeply, by the age of 40 only two in five women who try to have a baby will be able to do so. There has been a spectacular increase in the percentage of women who have not yet given birth by the age of 34, and it has been suggested that many will remain childless as a result.

We come across women who experience infertility but we tend to see this as a personal misfortune and private tragedy. In fact, many cases of infertility result from ignorance and being misinformed.

It could all be so different. PSHE classes are supposed to prepare pupils for the opportunities, challenges and responsibilities of adult life to which parenthood and family are absolutely central. This would be the ideal context to educate young people about the unpredictable and terminal nature of (female) fertility, which in turn would provide a springboard to discussions of parenthood and family, and the kinds of decisions which at some point in the future they might make.

But information about the reproductive lifespan and the time-limited nature of fertility is off the agenda. Pregnancy is mentioned only in the context of something to be studiously avoided. Family and parenthood don’t appear to be discussed.

This is not surprising. PSHE classes were largely the product of a desperate drive to reduce rates of teenage pregnancy. The focus has been on contraception and, failing that, abortion.

As for family planning, that is a complete misnomer. Family prevention is what they are paid to do.

This leaves young people with the impression that babies are rather peripheral to how they organise the future. And that when they decide they want to have one they will simply stop contraception and, regardless of their age, a pregnancy will result.

The reality is different. Research suggests that at the age of thirty, 75 per cent of couples trying for a baby will have one after the first year. Of those remaining, some might be infertile and some might have to wait three or four years. At the age of 35 the majority can become pregnant after three of four years of regular sexual activity (every two or three days). Those who were hoping for slightly larger families might have been anticipating a more fruitful result.

The Key Stage Three science programme does not fill in the gaps. The intention of the programme is to ‘help all young people to become confident individuals who are able to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives’. It will encourage them to ‘ask questions and discuss issues that may affect their own lives, the direction of societies and the future of the world’. Yet issues of parenthood, the reproductive lifespan or fertility – all so central to our own individual futures and the future of the planet – are simply not discussed.

Once out of the education system the media is not going to help fill in the gaps. Women are egged on (sorry) to delay baby-making by images of celebrities having babies well into their forties. They don’t know that 63 per cent of IVF cycles are unsuccessful. The number is even higher if you look at individual treatments, and even these figures become significantly worse the older the women are. Nor do they see the pain and physical discomfort of the treatment. Nor do they take on board the huge emotional and financial costs.

Forty might look and feel like the new thirty but we still have menopause at the same age. All these uncomfortable truths are airbrushed out.
Advocates of assisted reproductive technologies suggest these are a way of boosting rates of fertility. The truth is that their presence may well be increasing rates of infertility. Research on high-achieving women between the ages of 28 and 40 shows that they believe reproductive technologies will allow them to get pregnant into their forties. This is palpably false. The presence of assisted technologies is more likely to increase infertility by giving women the impression they can wait.

In 2014 more than 51,000 women were receiving infertility treatment. Hidden in this number is a huge amount of profound physical, psychological and financial distress. A great deal of this could have been avoided if people knew more about the facts.

Maximising women’s choices and autonomy requires raising awareness about the limitations and terminal nature of (particularly female) fertility. PSHE and science classes present an obvious context in which this can be done.

Incorporating information about fertility into the curriculum would enable discussion about parenthood and encourage value clarification regarding important life goals.



Teaching young people about the reproductive lifespan and fertility might draw their attention to the fact that sex is not a hedonistic activity. It is ultimately about creating happy relationships and making babies. It might provide a counterbalance to the diet of pornography to find out there is a purposeful, constructive dimension to sex, while of course ensuring that any good work in counteracting rates of teenage pregnancy is not undone.

PSHE literature waxes lyrical on teaching children about relationships. Thinking about fertility throws the spotlight on the family. Maybe this is not a bad place to start.

Just this week we have heard again about the steep rise in self-harming behaviour among girls. Perhaps this is linked to the culture of instant gratification and the offer of a future built around self-promotion and self-fulfilment. I suspect for many young women this feels vacuous and empty. Thinking about a future where you might care for others through starting a family might actually present a far more fulfilling goal.

Of course femininists should be at the forefront of pushing for these changes. But when they talk about ‘choice’ and ‘autonomy’, they mean the ‘choice’ to fulfil the feminist ‘equality’ agenda, rather than the desires of women. As such, feminism is largely a dreadful own goal.

In fact far from giving women freedom of choice, the focus on career and self-fulfilment means that sadly for many women, the possibility of making the most important choice of all, the choice to have a baby, has been completely removed.

Most of the ideas and data in this blog come from the following papers:

Fertility, the reproductive lifespan and the formal curriculum in England: a case for reassessment

Belinda will be joining Dr Nargund and Dr Nathanson for a discussion on fertility at The Trouble Club on November 6 at 7pm. If you are interested in coming along please book here.

Belinda Brown

  • martianonlooker

    “educated women also pay a very high price”. Considering the dross that comes out of university, why do we still hold up a degree as proof of being educated?
    As for fertility and birth rates, some of us don’t really care. There are more than enough people in these islands and more than enough people trying to get here. Either way, our view of society is finished and worries over fertility is the equivalent of re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

    • Reborn

      ‘There are more than enough people in these islands and more than enough people trying to get here.’
      As our very civilisation is under threat in the medium term, I’d say it is vitally important
      to look at the type of person trying to get here & the type of recent immigrant who has settled here.
      We need more productive, law abiding, happily British people, including non whites.
      We need fewer of the type of non indigenes who is so disproportionately represented
      in the criminal courts or who practices an evil religious ideology dedicated to our destruction by the perfectly legal method of outbreeding us.

      • CRSM

        I agree, so the focus should be on deporting these people whose aim is to destroy our society. This is far more important than worrying about a transient dip in fertility among the indigenes. Get rid of the dross and the resulting rise in the quality of life here will soon find more children will be conceived.

        • Reborn

          Certain once desirable areas in the South are occupied disproportionately
          by undesirable immigrant cultures, including a high proportion of
          criminals, as testified by court reports.
          Housing there is still very expensive, since, for example in Harrow, up
          to 40 immigrants can occupy a 4 bedroom house.
          Decent British people, who cannot afford to move to a better area,
          must feel reluctant to have children in what is, in effect, becoming a war
          zone.

        • Belinda Brown

          I don’t know what you mean by ‘dross’. If you mean the tiny number of Muslim fundamentalists – I think more often than not they are second generation British. It is the immigrants who have come to this society, for example the Poles and Nigerians (but I am sure many others) who we now depend upon to uphold ideals of family and hard work and education – ideals which us indigenous British have so palpably failed to preserve.

          • Reborn

            By dross we surely mean people who are a drain on our resources
            because of their criminality or anti social beliefs
            “Muslim fundamentalists” is another term for “devout muslims”
            Persons whose every belief is hostile to our interests, from Judeophobia
            & contempt for Christians through to institutionalised criminality
            including FGM & “justified lying”.
            I have had contact with de facto ex muslims & they fit in as well as any
            other immigrant group.
            Let there be no mistake, unlike all other immigrant groups, devout
            & generally serious muslims will always be immigrants, as will their progeny, since they see themselves as colonising a weak & degenerate
            culture.
            They are, of course, in many respects correct.

          • Reborn

            Last night I was at a secular event in a small church.
            The occasion was to listen to talented young musicians aged from
            seven to about eighteen.
            I was proud of my country which produced about 12 youngsters,
            perhaps three of whom were indigenes.
            The rest were Vietnamese, mixed race or “asian”
            All had their families with them. All were in Western attire, not a
            headscarf in sight.
            The Christian Vietnamese family had three brilliant youngsters including a violinist aged 8. If only such immigrants were our future, I’d happily swap
            them for our indigenous dregs, so prevalant in our celebrity culture
            on down.
            Incidentally, there are plenty of East European immigrants whose main skills involve claiming benefits, sleeping 10 to a room &
            declaiming “Big issue pliss”.

          • Tricia

            Don’t forget the modern slavery of Eastern Europeans by Eastern Europeans. We have plenty of that in eastern England and Derby also has problems.
            Every country has its criminal element, but the EU open borders means we have quite a lot of them now and many clogging up our prisons as we cannot send them home.

          • Tricia

            I don’t recognise your description of a tiny number of fundamentalists. I am seeing more and more burka clad women with whom it is impossible to have proper dialogue. Many of these are young women making a political statement of their separateness. Islam is a theocracy – religion and law with Allah in charge. The Middle East used to be Christian, now they are persecuted minorities. The Muslim birth rate is jihad. Having several wives certainly gives a head start.

          • Belinda Brown

            I can’t argue with any of that but I don’t like using the word ‘dross’ in case it lands on the wrong people.

          • Phil R

            Dross is the wrong word. The immigrants are not dross, far from it and mostly far more valuable members of our society than native born, BBC trained snowflakes, often full of entitlement rather than ability.

            Tricia is correct. These Muslim women are making a political statement. They have rejected the values of our sick Western society and see nothing of any real value in our current “cultural norms” as portrayed by the media and government. Of course they don’t want to be like “us” and I have some sympathy for that view because I don’t want Britain to be like “us” (socially left liberal) either. They are simply being counter cultural and hold the line against relentless anti family, anti religion, anti virtue message and policy from the state —as indeed we are on this site. We have more in common than we will admit, in reality we are simply on different roads steering our families and as many people from our communities who will follow, away from the moral swamp that calls itself mainstream (But actually still very much a minority – thankfully – despite almost universally holding the levers of power) of British society.

    • RobertRetyred

      ‘… why do we still hold up a degree as proof of being educated?’

      It’s the tick-box culture: it removes the responsibility of making an informed judgement. And it allows that skill to be transferred to the effort that ensures that the ‘progress’ to Erehwon continues.

      It also keeps (non-STEM) university staff in employment.

      • 3aple

        Have you noticed that every STEM programme on the BBC simply MUST be presented by a woman? And must interview almost exclusively women.

        • martianonlooker

          Is it me? it seems that near enough every advert has to have a black man, and/or a black woman and/or a black kid. Last time I saw anything like it was in Capetown.

        • Belinda Brown

          Yes I have noticed. And sometimes it seem not just like every STEM programme but every sports programme, every history programme. And I am getting so tired of it because I know it is not about talent but ideology. I am not saying they are bad, but this is worse than communist society was – under communism people could see what was going on and here so many people can’t.

          • 3aple

            I remember hearing on one of the BBC radio listener’s programmes (astonishingly, and when they existed) that a woman who ran a company that finds experts said the BBC insisted on taking women. She said she told their programme makers that she had lots more better qualified and more engagin men, but the programme makers weren’t interested. She said the same was also true of Channel 4.

  • ninoinoz

    Is anyone else getting adverts for IVF clinics under this article?

    I suppose they are relevant to the article but I do find it ironic IVF clinics are financing an article hostile to assisted reproduction.

  • Very good article. The lack of teaching about fertility and the facts around it is a massive gap in how we educate our younger generation to make informed choices, with knock-on effects for our nation’s birth rate and long term demographics.

    I’d say that the single biggest factor in the low Western birth rate is the workplace equality of women, who leave off having children and getting married till much later, deem having children to be hugely costly financially and personally (rather than something they just get on and do), and find it harder to find eligible men because half the well-paid jobs are occupied by women.

    This raises the big question: is gender workplace equality compatible with a long term sustainable birth rate? (This is to say nothing of the impact of all this on mental health, women’s in particular as they are pressured by society into ‘having it all’.)

  • Colkitto03

    Of course much happiness could be brought to childless women if they could adopt much more easily. That though, would need there to be significantly less abortion.

    There must be a message that we can can send to a percentage of women that having an ‘unwanted’ child is not taboo and that giving that child up for adoption provides two of the most wonderful gifts. The gift of life and the gift of a child to a childless couple.

    • JabbaPapa

      In other words, straightforward Catholic teaching …

      • I’d say Christian, but yes.

        • Servant of Mary

          Most denominations have caved on the issue of contraception. Contraception turns the marital act into a barren act of mutual masturbation.

          Once this perversion is admitted, all others follow – and hosts of other sins into the bargain.

          • I agree, but that some (or many) denominations don’t keep the faith doesn’t change what it means to be a Christian. This is what we have believed since Christ himself walked the Earth. It’s one of the reasons why the Faith spread as it did.

          • Servant of Mary

            Absolutely.

            So what keeps you out of Holy Church?

          • That I find Lutheran doctrine correct, as far as I am given to see. Not that there is all that much difference between us.

          • Servant of Mary

            It is interesting, because I think even if there were no difference in doctrine on paper, you put your finger on a radical difference between Catholics and Protestants, which is in the motive of Faith.

            We believe, explicitly or implicitly, everything the Church teaches must be believed, whether or not we understand it, because we acknowledge that the Church has authority from Christ to teach.

            You believe what you believe, because after reasoned reflection on the Scripture – in the edition(s) you choose to recognise – you conclude that it is true. Or have I got that wrong?

          • Phil R

            You have got it the wrong way around, sorry!

            Most Protestants don’t start with Scripture. They start with the love and understanding/acceptance of what God has done for them and then they study Scripture to know more about God.

            And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48)

            Note. The Gentiles had done nothing to deserve or earn their salvation. No good works, no Bible reading, no Priest, no Church, no Works.

            But on that day, they were saved. (God had made it so for them from the beginning)

          • JabbaPapa

            Most Protestants don’t start with Scripture

            So in other words, some of them do ?

            I do agree (as a Catholic and as a convert) with your implicit point that the means that God may choose for the conversion of men to the Faith are very diverse, and that these conversions could come for example from the Scriptures, from the Tradition, from the teaching of one’s parents, from the good example of Christians, from some unusual direct divine interventions, and so on and so forth.

            But OTOH I cannot agree that conversion to the Faith alone is sufficient for salvation, as Adam & Eve, and Satan and the other rebel angels, discovered to their loss.

            As for works, here is where God commanded us into them :

            Genesis {3:17} Yet truly, to Adam, he said: “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree, from which I instructed you that you should not eat, cursed is the land that you work. In hardship shall you eat from it, all the days of your life.
            {3:18} Thorns and thistles shall it produce for you, and you shall eat the plants of the earth.
            {3:19} By the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, until you return to the earth from which you were taken. For dust you are, and unto dust you shall return.”

          • Phil R

            If salvation is by what you do rather than what you believe then you would never know that you were good enough for God.

            And you would not need Jesus because you would be essentially saving yourself

          • JabbaPapa

            Well, that’s an interesting strawman argument, anyway …

            Those who claim that some particular human activity (“what you believe” AKA Sola Fide) will provide salvation are the Protestants.

            As for your claim that it might somehow be possible, via the intellectual works of Protestant ideology and practices, to “know” that you “are” “good enough for God” (???!!!??!!??) is just pure and simple sinful Pride and hubris

          • Phil R

            I think you might need to read my comment again.

          • JabbaPapa

            Your posit “if salvation is by what you do” is a strawman — Catholic teaching suggests nothing of the kind.

          • Phil R

            Glad to hear it, no good works then needed for Catholics.

            Not sure that you get the significance of what Jesus did for us when he died for us. But then this is the main difference between Catholics and Protestants.

          • JabbaPapa

            Not sure that you get the significance of what Jesus did for us when he died for us. But then this is the main difference between Catholics and Protestants.

            ????????!!!???!!!!??!!?!?

          • Servant of Mary

            Well, I was talking to a Lutheran, who said that was basically his approach.

          • Close, actually. Much the problem is that I do not believe one can build doctrine strictly on tradition. That is where the medieval Church went wrong, but it fixed it, as well. Tradition is important, but doctrine must be based on scripture. We (more properly I, but my church agrees) also have serious problems with Papal Infallibility (but we would, wouldn’t we). In truth, it’s more a difference of emphasis in practice than anything.

            There is a reason why we call ourselves catholic but not Roman, Evangelical but liturgical. I suspect if you were to read “The Book of Concord” you’d find little to argue with. We weren’t the radical reformers, that came a bit later, and seems to me that their goal was to be as non-Catholic as possible. Luther was a reformer, what today we’d call a whistleblower.

            My sort of Lutheran is actually more catholic than many Catholics are. The entire thing is summarized as: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, and Solus Christus. Strangely (or maybe not) most of my Christian friends are either Catholic or Anglo-Catholic (other than the serious Lutherans, of course). Phil has a point, Faith is a gift of Christ’s Grace. We can’t earn it. Now, if I could find a way to fund going to Walsingham, I would be overjoyed. And yes, my Rosary does have a OLW medal on it. Surprised? You’d be amazed how many of us have them, although many use the euphemism of prayer beads.

            You know though, a lot of it is tradition, my heritage is Norwegian, and my family has been Lutheran as far back as anyone has traced, if I had been raised Catholic, I probably would still be. 🙂

          • JabbaPapa

            I do not believe one can build doctrine strictly on tradition

            Nor does the Church — the Dogma and the Tradition, whilst organically linked, are thought of as separate.

            Doctrines belonging principally to the Tradition are by their very nature intrinsically less authoritative than the Dogmas from the Scripture.

            Besides, every single Protestant sect is based on its own particular traditions, especially I’d say the Lutherans.

            Funnily enough, the accusations against Catholics and against the Catholic Church that one hears from Protestants are never based on Scripture but always on something else entirely of their own man-made invention, and nearly always those accusations will be materially false.

            Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia

            These flawed concepts are not somehow “more catholic” than the Catholic.

            Sola Scriptura is self-defeating, given that it itself is a man-made doctrine not to be found in the Scripture, just as none of the fundamentals of Lutheran theology are to be found there either. Crikey, Luther had to even deliberately change the contents of Scripture to have it follow his personal ideas !!

            As for Sola Fide it’s simply wrong — We are saved (or not) by the Grace of God, rather than by our own Faith alone. Sola Fide makes the false claim that man alone is sufficient to his own salvation ; ironically constituting a claim that men could be saved by their own works.

            If Faith alone were sufficient for salvation, then Satan would still be an angel, and Adam and Eve would never have been expelled from Eden. Sola Fide also makes a mockery of classical Christian ethics and morals (though I’m certain that most Lutherans individually do not).

            And Sola Gratia is wrong because it is heretically false to claim that God’s Acts are limited in such a manner. ALL of the Virtues, just for starters, are (or can be) vehicles of God’s Will, which is most certainly not limited by the doctrines nor the ideas of men.

          • Servant of Mary

            Thank you for taking the time to reply.

            For me the key issue is the attitude of submission of the intellect and will to the Church as a teaching authority.

            Christ said to his Apostles, “Who hears you, hears me.”

            I think there is a fundamental difference in motive, between someone who believes something because Christ’s representative is telling it to him, and somebody who believes something because he has decided it for himself.

            The first acknowledges a Divine interpretative authority outside himself. The second places that trust in himself and / or in other human scholars.

            I suppose I would accept Sola Gratia. The other two Solas I have issues with.

            A Faith that does not work is dead, as the Apostle teaches. And infants cannot exercise faith, so how can they be saved? Yet Lutherans baptise infants.

            As to Sola Scriptura, the problem with that is that Scripture is embedded in Tradition. We accept the received canon, because the Church decided that it was the canon. So clearly the authority of the Church is essential.

  • Revd Robert West

    As soon as women get wedded they should leave the workforce: their duty is to be good wives, mothers and home-keepers, not put men out of work. Wives, mothers and home-keepers can be brilliantly intelligent conversationalists; and the hand that rocks the cradle does, in a sense, rule the world. This diversity nonsense is having a dysgenic effect on the species of man wherever it shows its ugly head. A good article by a good woman.

  • RobertRetyred

    ‘Teaching young people about the reproductive lifespan and fertility might draw their attention to the fact that sex is not a hedonistic activity. It is ultimately about creating happy relationships and making babies.’
    This is not compatible with Gay Culture, the BBC Agenda (the same thing, really), or the Conservative Party Culture (a la Cameron, Theresa Maybe and Amber (sitting between Red and Green) Rudd(erless).
    To think the Conservative Party used to conserve the best and throw out the worst! 🙂

  • CitymanMichael

    2017 was the year when the average age for women in the UK had their first child after their 30th birthday. It had been steadily getting later, but has now passed this landmark.

    • JabbaPapa

      The hideous consequence of radical totalitarian pro-death ideology …

    • RPM

      But not in every community.

  • NogbadTheBad

    Many of the women I’ve known from university onwards have ended up childless – not through being anti-family or anti-children, just didn’t treat these things as a priority. They’ve also been generally bright, thoughtful, conscientious women, who won’t now be having children with those traits. When I compare them to some of the mums on the school run, I find this rather sad

  • John Smith

    The Frankfurt School suggested destroying the family
    This is part of the result
    Also a wave of hapless socialism

  • Alaric the Vis

    When the penny drops and women realise they want children, how easy will it be to find a man to wants the role of father? If things go wrong, they’re the ones made homeless and reduced to penury. The system doesn’t give a damn about men, who are casually broken and left paying the bills. All responsibilities and no rights.

  • paul parmenter

    Surprised to see such a glaring mistake from the normally excellent Belinda, in her very first sentence. “The less privileged in our society take the biggest hit from the unintended consequences of feminism.”

    Unintended? Really? Who could ever watch the steady unfolding and fulfilment of the feminist agenda over several decades, and fail to conclude that the consequences are very much intentional?

    The men without education and employment. Tick. Absolute basic feminism: how are women ever to get to the top of society and take over all the best jobs unless shedloads of males are turfed out of the education system with dismal qualifications and dismal prospects?

    The children without a father. Tick. Again, textbook feminism. Men must not be allowed to bring their toxic masculinity to bear on the future generations. Fatherhood is completely overrated; mothers can do it all. If a + b = x, and a = x, then b = 0. QED.

    The mothers without a partner. Tick. Same principle as above, same basic feminism. Women must do it all themselves; if you let a man into your life, other than as a sperm donor or walking wallet, the beast will always want to take over and dictate everything. Usually employing a range of violent and coercive means to do so.

    If feminism did not have all these purposes in mind from the outset, then it would never have taken the path it has followed. There was nothing unintentional about it.

    • Belinda Brown

      Hmmm. I guess the word unintended could have been left out.

  • JB

    I’d like to add my own experience of further problems with the way the NHS approaches fertility as well.

    My wife and I got married in our mid-20s and have been hoping to start a family since, but have suffered with fertility issues. Our experience with the NHS IVF system started about 5 or 6 years ago, but I quickly came to realise was essentially impossible to receive any treatment to start a family through the NHS, you jump through endless hoops and just maybe at the end you’ll be selected to receive highly rationed IVF treatment. However, had we wanted an abortion we’d have been seen immediately, we could have had an abortion every couple of months and there would always be enough to pay for that.

    You’d think the state would at least value the prospect of a future taxpayer at least, but apparently it is utterly disinterested in helping a loving married couple start a family. In the end we went private, but it seems like they’ve got things completely backward in the way they approach helping couples with fertility issues.