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Kate Garraway and Zita West: live webchat about fertility, Wednesday 22 May, 12.45pm to 1.45pm

(139 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 21-May-13 20:13:38

Kate Garraway and Zita West are joining us for a live webchat on Wednesday lunchtime between 12.45 and 1.45pm

Kate and Zita have been working together recently as ambassadors for the Get Britain Fertile campaign with First Response Early Result Pregnancy Test. The campaign uses an image of Kate transformed by prosthetics into a 70-year-old pregnant woman; First Response says this was done to raise awareness of the fact that the average age at which women in the UK have children is one of the world's highest.

However, the image has come under much criticism on this thread. In particular, Mumsnetters have queried whether women are, in fact, really that unaware of the risks - and why the campaign does not appear to be equally aimed at men.

The Get Britain Fertile press team say, "The campaign was set up to to supply men and women with accurate and up-to-date fertility tips and advice, to improve chances of conception whenever they decide to start conceiving."

Kate Garraway has been presenting GMTV Daybreak for 13 years, and is the mother of two children, to whom she gave birth at the ages of 38 and 42. Zita West is a midwife, acupuncturist and nutritional adviser. She worked in the NHS for more than 20 years, and in 2002 set up the Zita West clinic, a multidisciplinary practice for helping women to conceive. She joined Mumsnet for live webchat back in 2007.

Put your questions to Kate and Zita tomorrow (Weds 22 May) at 12.45pm or, if you're unable to make that time, post them here in advance.

KateandZita Wed 22-May-13 13:01:03


Considering that the world's population is so high already is it not irresponsible to encourage people to have children at a young age, surely from a population wide view it is better to encourage people to leave it as late as possible? Having a baby is not the only way to feel fufilled.

Kate says: I totally agree that having a baby is not the only way to feel fulfilled, however for many women the desire to have a child is overwhelming and if they find it hard to conceive it can be heartbreaking. So this campaign is aimed at giving as much information as possible who do want help. The campaign is aimed at men and women and people of all ages.

EduCated Wed 22-May-13 13:02:24

It is in response to the problems people are experiencing that the campaign was conceived.

Pun intended? wink

TheNewson Wed 22-May-13 13:02:48

Why has Kate been transformed into a 70-year-old woman for the advertising poster? These ludicrous 'shock' tactics are merely insulting to 'older' mothers.

KateandZita Wed 22-May-13 13:06:02


Do you think there is a link between these two factors: (1) The average age at which women in the UK have children is amongst the highest in the world; (2) The average cost of childcare in the UK is the highest in the world (apart from Switzerland)?

Do you think your time and effort would be better directed at campaigning for a society where young working couples can afford to have children if they so wish?

KATE SAYS: A First Response/YouGov survey commissioned to accompany this campaign revealed that when asked 42 percent of men and women said they delayed having a baby to sort out their finances, and over a third of UK adults said the cost of childcare puts them off having a baby or another child. So it seems alot of other people agree with your point.By
raising awareness of these issues we hope the campaign will be able to highlight some of the challenges people are facing.

KateandZita Wed 22-May-13 13:07:32



My mum went through the menopause at a very early age, and this was one factor behind my decision to have kids at a younger (well 29) age (although the bigger factors were feeling ready and meeting the right man to have kids with). Anyhow, was I right? Is an early menopause hereditary? Are there any other conditions to think about when deciding the right age?

Zita says: That this is a really good question. One of the most important questions that every woman should ask their mother at what age they went through their menopause?. The chances are that you may also go through your menopause around the same time. It is important to know this if you are hoping to have more than one child you may consider trying earlier. There are ways now in assessing Ovarian reserves through blood tests and scans that will give you a good indication of future fertility potential.

KateandZita Wed 22-May-13 13:08:29


I hate the title "get Britain fertile" because I think it suggests that there is something we can control about fertility, that those of us suffering with infertility did or are doing something wrong, that we've made bad choices and have caused this. Our infertility is the result of dh being born with an undescended testicle. There is nothing we can do to 'get fertile' and this plays into the ignorant view that its people's own fault.

Kate says: I am so sorry about your challenges with having a children. I hope that as you get to hear more about the campaign you will come to realise that it is about giving couples as much information as possible so that they can meet whatever fertility challenges that come their way and be as prepared as possible. I wish you good luck with yours.

KateandZita Wed 22-May-13 13:11:24


Is there any evidence that women aren't aware that fertility declines with age? I find the tone of the campaign very patronizing. Many women are simply not in the position to start a family until their thirties. I also find it patronizing to have someone who has two children conceived in their thirties fronting the campaign. I certainly wouldn't take fertility advice from someone who smoked while pregnant. What effect does smoking have on fertility and egg quality?

Zita says: Yes there is evidence that women are not aware that their fertility declines with age. I see this in my clinic every week and it is painful to witness when men and women become aware that it is too late for them to conceive. Only this morning I saw a couple who wished they had started trying for a baby earlier on in their thirties as they hadn’t expected to have any problems. He has male factor issues and she is not ovulating. They have only just found this out. She is 37 and he is 39. Many women because they are having regular periods think they are ovulating. It is myths like this that we hope to tackle during the year long campaign to Get Britain Fertile with First Response Early Result Pregnancy Test. Smoking does have a big impact on fertility and can affect egg quality and sperm.

KateandZita Wed 22-May-13 13:12:45


Hi both,

Can you explain the reasoning behind the campaign? Do you both, as educated women, genuinely believe that women don't realise that they may find it harder to get pregnant as they age?

Zita says: I see this every day in my clinic. Highly educated men and women who simply have no idea about their own biology. Most women spend much of their lives trying not to get pregnant. Many women start the pill at 16 and they come off it in their thirties and they are not aware of their cycle or fertility signs. It would really surprise you if you knew just how many men and women really do not know the basic facts. We are taught how not to get pregnant at school. Fast forward to when couples want to start trying and often they have forgotten the facts or there are issues they do not know how to tackle.

KateandZita Wed 22-May-13 13:12:49


Have they seen this thread which highlights a lot of points made earlier

I am astonished that Zita west (who I had a lot of time for) is involved in this.

Ime and as post after post shows, delayed motherhood is not because people are ignorant of implications biologically or as a lifestyle choice.

First response also scoring a massive pr own goal by association by this.

This is probably the most ill received web chat since Scheherazade goldsmith (which got cancelled as no one wanted to be lectured by her).

Zita says: Gigonadas it really saddens me that you feel that way. I've been a supporter of men and women of all ages being more informed about fertility for decades. I've been a midwife for thirty years and I see thousands of couples a year who come to me with very real and very painful issues. I really do understand what couples face when deciding to have a baby. I have always believed that there are many myths that need to be dispelled and the reason I decided to be involved with this campaign was to get the facts out to men and women across the country.

KateandZita Wed 22-May-13 13:16:00


I really don't get this campaign. Most women who have babies later do so as they want to concentrate on their careers first. I don't see how this campaign will make any difference to that group of women. Certainly Kate Garraway saying I should have a baby earlier than say 30 wouldn't have made a blind bit of difference to me as I needed to get my life sorted out first.

I think the demographic that they are trying to speak to are probably the most aware about declining fertility what with being educated and all. I doubt many of us actually 'sleep walk into infertility'. It is rather more complex than that I suspect.

It seems like an ill thoughtout and rather pointless marketing exercise for First Response tbh

KATE SAYS: I think some of the elements of this campaign may have been mis read along the way. Its main aim is to offer help and share the expertise that Zita West has accumulated over years working with couples who are trying to conceive. Alongside that a survey was commissioned to look into why the UK is one of the countries in the world that delays bearing children more than anywhere else. And the survey threw up some interesting statistics surrounding people reasons. Many people may be very aware of their own body and the length of their fertility window. But speaking from personal experience i was unaware of how my fertility had been affected by age. And cannot imagine life without my two wonderful children so just want others to be aware too, so they can avoid the pain of age related infertility that so many of my friends have experienced.

EduCated Wed 22-May-13 13:17:47

Any actual, non-anecdotal evidence?

KateandZita Wed 22-May-13 13:19:23


I'm going to go against the grain here and say that I do think that we need to get out the message that the longer you leave trying to conceive the harder it can be. Although there are lots of good and sound reasons to delay starting a family, the decision to do so does need to be weighed up against the risk that it might not be straightforward.

I have lost count of the number of friends and colleagues who have assumed that they can leave it until they are 35+ to start ttc, and then run into problems. In fact, this issue is the one thing that I will stick my oar in on: I do point out to them that they might not be in a rush, but their bodies may well have other ideas, and if they know they do want to start a family they should crack on with it as soon as possible.

I'm not altogether convinced by how the campaign will work, and how it intends to deliver the messages, but as a concept I'm surprised it has been greeted with so much hostility.

Zita says: Thank you FamiliesShareGerms for your support. I frequently see couples that come back trying for a second child and what men and women have to factor in is that it can take up to a year to get pregnant, and then it can take another year to carry a child and recover from the birth. If you breast-feed and recover that is another year. Miscarriages are very common and if things do sadly go wrong, that is another delay in a couple's fertility journey. It is a journey that takes time and we are making couples aware they should plan ahead to get fertility fit.

Of course, some couples have very real fertility issues. We are encouraging them to look after their fertility early on in their journeys so these can be addressed.

KateandZita Wed 22-May-13 13:21:17


So this is being funded by First Response is it?


Zita says: Yes this is being funded by First Response Early Result Pregnancy Test. I have worked closely with them for two years and they are fully supportive of couples and their fertility journeys.

FrankellyMyDearIDontGiveADamn Wed 22-May-13 13:21:21

Whilst i "get" the basic intention behind this campaign, I'm afraid I'm another woman who finds it patronising. Those of us who are over 30 are constantly bombarded with messages that we are too career driven and selfish for "waiting" to have children.

It fails to take into account the fact that many women are not in the right relationship at their most fertile age or are not financially able to support children. Or, as in my case, have fertility issues that they are unaware of until they actually start trying to conceive. I would love to have had children in my 20s, but have been struggling with previously unknown fertility issues for 3 years. At the age of 32 I feel utterly wretched when I read commentators and experts essentially saying "it's your own fault for not trying sooner."

FunnysInLaJardin Wed 22-May-13 13:22:02

thanks for your response Kate. I think that personally had you used another medium rather than the Daily Mail to publicise the campaign then it would have been taken more seriously and the main message wouldn't have been lost. As it was the first I saw of it was in Femail which is mysoginistic at best.

KateandZita Wed 22-May-13 13:25:04


Why has Kate been transformed into a 70-year-old woman for the advertising poster? These ludicrous 'shock' tactics are merely insulting to 'older' mothers.

KATE SAYS I would never want to do anything to insult older mothers, not least because i am one! - having given birth to my first child at 38 and my second at 42 and would still love to have more now at 46! I believe choosing when to have a child is entirely a couples personal decision and it has to be when it is right for them. But generally in life I have personally always found it is best to have all the information so one can make an informed decision and this campaign hopes to give couples just that.
In relation to the photo, one of the facts that surprised me the most in the survey accompanying this campaign is that despite the UK delaying childbirth longer than most other countries in the world, when asked nearly seventy per cent of people in our society said that the forties was not the best time for women to get pregnant. So it began us asking, what is going on in our society that most people seem to disapprove of older mothers and yet more and more of us our doing it?. So we began debating the reasons why this may be and it has been fascinating seeing everyone engaging in that debate too. The photo is definitely arresting but if society is expressing views on how old a mother should be the photo is intended to engage debate on - how old is too old? And it certainly seems to have worked!

KateandZita Wed 22-May-13 13:26:02


Does fertility really drop off a cliff at 35? I am 34 and we'd like a third but we want to wait a year for various reasons. Two DCs conceived quickly and born when I was 30 and 32.5, a miscarriage in between. Thanks!

Zita says it is different for everyone. The fact that you have had two children is good. But as you age you do face greater risks of miscarriage. I know that there are many reasons for people delaying having a child ranging from financial concerns to relationship issues to health concerns. But the older you are, the more your options decline. I think you stand a really good chance of conceiving again so best of luck with your journey.

Heavywheezing Wed 22-May-13 13:28:02

Do you think it's reasonable for women to think how many children they would like over their whole fertile life?
I think it's good to front a campaign like this.
I say this as a mum of two, first baby at 34 second at 37. I'd like the option to have another but I think I'm too old and too tired at 39.

I should have had children earlier so I'd like the option of having more. Time waits for no woman!

hurricanewyn Wed 22-May-13 13:29:42

Thank you Zita for your answer - I'm astounded by that & a little bit saddened. Certainly be talking to my children about fertility, as well as contraception.

tunnocksteacake Wed 22-May-13 13:30:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

KentishWine Wed 22-May-13 13:33:54

Having a child is expensive and is beyond the reach of many young couples who have to contend with university debts, high rents, poor job market....

You say that By raising awareness of these issues we hope the campaign will be able to highlight some of the challenges people are facing

In my experience, people have an awareness of these issues, but awareness is not going to pay for childcare.

Do you have any practical advice for young working couples who want children but cannot afford them? The only thing I can think of is to wait.

KateandZita Wed 22-May-13 13:36:07


Whilst I appreciate the personal tragedy involved for people who find that their fertility declines (and as tametortie's eloquent post illustrates, this is not purely age related) this campaign doesn't make much sense to me. The UKs birth rate is one of the highest in the EU, apart from Ireland which is the only country with a birth rate above 2.0. I would like to hear Kate and Garraway put forward reasons other than personal fulfilment why we should be trying to increase fertility, if our population is replacing itself...

kate says : You are right this campaign does not address the whole issue of population increases both in the UK and worldwide. it is essentially focused on the personal issues of couples who want to start a family and making sure they have the best advice and help available to do so.

KateandZita Wed 22-May-13 13:38:24


Do you think it's reasonable for women to think how many children they would like over their whole fertile life?
I think it's good to front a campaign like this.
I say this as a mum of two, first baby at 34 second at 37. I'd like the option to have another but I think I'm too old and too tired at 39.

I should have had children earlier so I'd like the option of having more. Time waits for no woman!

KATE SAYS: Your experience is typical of many and I wish you and your family well with whatever you decide in the future.

Andcake Wed 22-May-13 13:38:54

I married at 29 and hoped to get pregnant in my early 30's unfortunately the husband left for someone else and I spent the whole of my 30's in a race against time to meet a partner I liked enough to have children with. I cried myself to sleep with the huge longing to have a child and the awareness of my ticking clock. I know/knew many women (career women) who feel as sad and ths campaign will just make them more miserable.

I finally achieved motherhood at 40 after trying for 3 yrs to conceive. I had no choice in my predicament. If I was to follow the advice of this campaign what age should I have just bought some donor sperm and done it myself?

I too have a lot of time for zits (sorry had to google Kate to find out who she is) and just feel this campaign will just make women miserable. If I ever needed a pregnancy test again I would not buy first response. Actually I hate the fact I am contributing to this thread as 'engaging people in a conversation' to raise their profile was probably their objective.

KateandZita Wed 22-May-13 13:39:40


OK, here's the thing. Lack of partner and financial security aside, I didn't actually want children until my 30s.

I had twins naturally at 32. In previous years this age was deemed geriatric for first children (even though my Nan had kids from when she was aged between 18-40)

Yes, we all know that ideally women should be in their 20s but in this day of choice I'm glad I waited. I feel this campaign edges into the arena of (informed) choice, and I'm uncomfortable with that.

Most of the people this campaign is aimed at are intelligent enough to realise that the body is supposedly best at having children in its 20s; yet for various reasons, that are diverse and far from simple, that does not always happen.

Question: So isn't the campaign pointless? What are you hoping to change/prompt when people are well informed on this complex issue?

Zita says: People are not well informed. Many men and women do not know about fertility awareness. Why do they seek my advice if they know everything? The most common things I come across are the pressure on couples having to deal with the uncertainty about when they will conceive and lack of control with their situation when all of their friends around them are getting pregnant and they are not. They feel lost and without a plan of action. Male factor fertility is increasing. It is also very common now to have the couple with the issue- not just the woman. Women want to know when to have sex, understand their fertile window and they focus too much on ovulation and not enough on the sperm. So I disagree. The campaign is not pointless and is much needed to educate and empower men and women.

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