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‘Don’t forget to have a baby!’ President of all-female Cambridge University college Dorothy Byrne introduces fertility lessons telling students not to leave a family too late – after her own daughter was conceived via IVF at 45
- Women in single-sex colleges at Cambridge University set to receive education on fertility and childcare, including being advised when to plan for a family
- Dorothy Byrne, new president of Murray Edwards, has introduced new seminars
- Byrne, 69, said she wanted to stop young women from ‘forgetting to have a baby’ as she nearly did – undergoing IVF to give birth to her own daughter, now 24
- Average UK birth rate dropped to 1.53 per woman in 2021, from 2 in 2000 and 1.93 in 2011
The new president of an all-female college at Cambridge University has introduced fertility lessons to students, saying she the decision was influenced by her own experience of struggling to fall pregnant in her forties.
Former head of Channel 4 News, Dorothy Byrne, 69, recently took up the role of president at Murray Edwards College and says the new seminars are designed to help women understand better that fertility can dramatically drop after the age of 35.
Byrne gave birth to her daughter, now 24, as a single woman at 45 after IVF treatment. Average UK birth rates have dropped to 1.53 per woman in 2021, from 2 in 2000 and 1.93 in 2011.
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Dorothy Byrne, 69, new president at all-female Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, said she wanted to stop young women from ‘forgetting to have a baby’ as she nearly did – undergoing IVF to give birth to her own daughter, now 24
Women in single-sex colleges at Cambridge University are set to receive education on fertility and childcare, including being advised when to plan for a family
She told The Sunday Times: ‘Young women are being taught that they all have to do well in school, get a degree, be successful in their career and be beautiful.
The college president added that putting her own career in television news first almost saw her sacrifice a family of her own: ‘The thing that is getting lost along the way is that you forget to have a baby, which I nearly did.’
Byrne said she felt like the emphasis on having a successful career and the message of not risking falling pregnant at a young age had left many women not feeling in charge of when they wanted to start a family.
The new classes will outline how fertility declines rapidly after the age of 35 in women.
Earlier this year a fertility expert slammed celebrity mothers who have children in their mid-to-late 40s for misleading women into assuming fertility lasts well into the fifth decade.
Professor Adam Balen, a former chairman of the British Fertility Society, said women in their late 30s and 40s came to him every day, saying: ‘I’m just amazed – I didn’t realise my fertility was so poor.’
Fertility declines after the age of 35, says the British Fertility Society, with the UK’s average birth rate dropping to 1.53 per woman in 2021, from 2 in 2000 and 1.93 in 2011
‘The chance of [fertility treatment] working goes down with age,’ he said. ‘The high-profile celebrities who have children in their mid-to-late 40s may be doing so with donated eggs rather than their own eggs, but, of course, they often don’t say that.’
Women in their 40s who undergo IVF treatment tend to produce fewer eggs – and of lower quality – than younger women when given drugs to stimulate production.
For those over the age of 42 who use their own eggs, the chance of a resulting embryo leading to a live birth is less than five per cent, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
Among those over 42 who use donated eggs, live birth rates exceed 25 per cent – about average for IVF as a whole.
Prof Balen, who is lead clinician at Leeds Fertility, said: ‘Women in their 20s should start seriously to think about when they might wish to start a family. A woman aged 25 has a 25 per cent chance of conceiving per month. At 35, it’s probably more in the region of 15 per cent. At 40, it’s probably only one or two per cent.
‘If you want to have the opportunity to have three children, you probably have to start trying when you’re 23. If you want two children, you can leave it until you’re 28. If you’re happy with one, probably start by the time you’re 32.’
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