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Why are women who dont want children not taken seriously.

(71 Posts)
Darkesteyes Wed 26-Nov-14 02:02:59

I was 21 when i realised i didnt ever want to have children. I asked to be sterilised and was refused.
Ive been prompted to start this thread by seeing the different threads on contraception that have been on the boards recently. Im 41 now and still dont want children.
Im no longer sexually active with DH but have had 2 other partners in the last 18 years. One was long term.
The different contraception i have been on in my life are.
Femodene and Logynon Both of these are combined pills. This was between the ages of 19 and 21.
Norplant = contraceptive implant in the arm between the ages of 21 and 24. (Dh no longer wanted sex so i had it removed)
Depo Provera injection between the ages of 30 and 35 when i was seeing my ex OM.
And in the last few months the mini pill Zelleta.
Adding this all up in my head the amount of hormonal contraceptives ive been on in my life is .....a lot.
Ive known for such a long time that ive never wanted children. There is an article in Grazia this week about contraception and the wording underneath the sections about female and male sterilisation differs greatly.
Female sterilisation.
"for when the woman is sure she doesnt want any more children and has completed her family"

Male sterilisation. "for when the couple has completed their family" confused

I just wish women were taken more seriously. Ive heard a lot of medical ppl say they wont sterilise a woman who has not had children in case she changes her mind. But many of us WONT change our mind. Is this a way to control womens fertility and sexuality? 20 years later i still feel the same about not wanting children.

islandmama Wed 26-Nov-14 02:57:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HelloitsmeFell Wed 26-Nov-14 03:11:51

Is female sterilisation more difficult to reverse than vasectomy perhaps? Maybe that's the reason for the perceived imbalance in the way the issue is approached with women compared to men?

I am sure HCPs know from experience that plenty of people do change their minds, and then the NHS is expected to move heaven and earth to somehow get them PG, so I understand the reluctance to sterilise at a young age.

However, it's your body, your life, and providing you have been assessed as being psychologically sound in your reasoning I see no reason why you should not get sterilisation on demand at any age over 18.

But the caveat for me, for both sexes, would be that there is absolutely NO going back on the NHS, ever. No reversal, no IVF, nothing, and no counselling of you later struggle with your decision. Also you would automatically be put behind anyone who hadn't deliberately put an end to their own fertility if you later applied to adopt.

Have you ever actually approached your GP and made a serious request for sterilisation and been turned down though? You don't make any specific mention of it. Maybe the idea would be more well received than you think, especially at 41.

HelloitsmeFell Wed 26-Nov-14 03:14:00

Actually 18 is probably too young, few of us know what we want at 18, but certainly at 25 if we are adamant we never want children we should be taken seriously.

HelloitsmeFell Wed 26-Nov-14 03:17:07

And when I said you go to the back of the queue for adoption, obviously that would not apply if you'd chosen sterilisation because of a complex medical history or a serious hereditary disease etc., where it was in everyone's best interests for you to not be a biological parent. That would be different.

OldLadyKnows Wed 26-Nov-14 03:25:32

I don't think it's just women. I had a male friend/neighbour who was absolutely certain, from his teen years, that he never wanted dc; he said his own father was such a fuck-up he didn't want to be a dad himself in case he replicated the behaviour. He was refused a vasectomy until he was in his early 30's and had married his long-term gf/dp, and she had to agree to the procedure.*

*My own dh had a vasectomy not long after - we already had 2 dc - and I also had to "agree"; what I actually had to sign was a declaration that I had been advised that vasectomies sometimes rejoin, and I couldn't sue for an unexpected pregnancy. I had been unwilling to sign because I had been given no such advice (though I knew it anyway), but they actually refused to operate on dh until I did sign. Ho hum.

sashh Wed 26-Nov-14 07:10:00

Yes the lack or sterilization of women pisses me off, I have never wanted children and at 48 I think people are finally realising it isn't just a whim.

A friend of a friend has 5 children, 5 different partners and 2 have special needs - her GP won't even refer her because she is 'too young'.

The one that really annoys me, "you will change your mind when you meet the right man"

VertdeTerre Wed 26-Nov-14 08:53:41

I'm sure it's the permanence of it that makes GPs nervous, and I believe that female sterilisation is harder to reverse than vasectomy. It's not just women, a male friend (mid thirties, family complete) was told to go away and come back in a few years "in case he left his wife and wanted to start a family with somebody else"shock. Not something he was planning, but I guess the GP sees people seeking a reversal in that situation.

You could argue that refusing men is also a feminist issue: we should be encouraging men to be equally responsible for long term contraception, and refusal in effect often forces their partners onto long term hormonal contraception.

But I do think there is something particularly paternalistic about refusing younger women "oh don't be silly you might change your mind when you're older/meet the right man". So long as the appropriate pre-op counselling is in place (it is a major decision that ought to be talked through) then I see no reason why younger women shouldn't have access to this.

SoMuchForSubtlety Wed 26-Nov-14 10:08:00

I think it's part of a larger issue. I think women-as-breeders are seen to belong to wider society, so by extension your reproductive choices are not viewed as your own.

I saw it when I was pregnant underlying the bump touching, the intrusive questions, the endless unwanted advice... And I also see it in debates about abortion. Women are expected to consider what others (including their unborn child) want and need ahead of their own wants and needs.

I think that society has for so long expected women to play a silent role in reproduction that it's a hard habit to break.

VertdeTerre Wed 26-Nov-14 11:45:54

SoMuch I agree.

I was pondering this some more and realised that my post might have come across as a bit "what about the menz" when I didn't mean it to. What I was trying to articulate is that anybody requesting to end their fertility can come up against resistance from HCPs, because it is just assumed that the other long term reversible options for women are better (as discussed on the other threads, they're often not). Add to that the "women as breeders" attitude and it is not surprising that young women are being refused sterilisation.

Darkesteyes Wed 26-Nov-14 15:48:33

Completely agree with all the comments. I didnt realise men were having such a difficult time accessing this procedure too.

I asked about it 3 times during my 20s and again when i was 30 which was when they put me on the Depo.

I was working in a shop at the time and whenever the bloody thing was due i had to negotiate time off so i could run up the road to the surgery to get jabbed. There was an assistant manager there who hummed and hawed about it every time. Demanded to know what i needed the appointment for so i had no choice but to say and i was made to feel that the need for time off for this wasnt important. There were 2 others off on maternity leave and they were short staffed as it was so i would have thought she would have had more sense. She okayed me nipping out of the shop on the day the appointment was due. Then tried to go back on it on the morning of the appointment when another staff member phoned in sick.

All this faff could have been avoided. I also think there should be a provision in employment law that says a woman should have as much right to time off work for an appointment like this as she does for scans if she is pregnant.
Because a couple of recent threads in AIBU have proved that not everyone has access to a family planning clinic.

Chesntoots Wed 26-Nov-14 20:42:24

I know exactly what you are saying. I have known since I was about 15. At the age of 41 they still don't appear to believe me. Maybe if I get to 72 they might admit that perhaps I knew what I was talking about.

Darkesteyes Wed 26-Nov-14 21:50:06

YY ches it really pisses me off. If a woman walks into a clinic and says she wants a baby they dont tell her that she doesnt know her own mind. But say you dont want one and you suddenly dont know your own mind confused

cailindana Thu 27-Nov-14 10:17:49

I think it's important to separate out a few issues with this one.

I think all people, male and female, who say at a young age that they don't want children are given the message that they'll change their minds, or at least that they might change their minds. We all want things when we're young that we reconsider as we get older - that's part of growing up. I know plenty of people who were absolutely adamant in their teens/twenties that they would never have children, who now have at least two (one has five!).

A doctor will always be reluctant to do an optional procedure that has life-long lifechanging effects, especially if that person is young and may change their mind later on.

I wouldn't advocate ever giving young people the option to alter their physiology is such a dramatic way unless it was totally necessary.

However, I do very much agree that women are seen as breeders and as public property as far as childrearing is concerned. I think that is linked to the sterilisation thing, in terms of attitudes, but I think the refusal to consider sterilising a young person is tied more to the longterm consequences of it, rather than sexism per se.

cailindana Thu 27-Nov-14 10:18:43

Just to add, Darkest, a girl of 18 who says she wants a baby will often be told she doesn't know her own mind. I was considered a bit young and foolish having my DS at 28!

ClawHandsIfYouBelieveInFreaks Thu 27-Nov-14 10:21:29

I was also sure I didn't want DC at 21. By 29 my mind had changed. under 35 is too young to be sure imo.

Amethyst24 Thu 27-Nov-14 11:01:32

I'm in a similar position (41, never wanted children) and I haven't experienced what you describe, perhaps because I have never wanted to be sterilised. I was on the Pill for a long time, then used condoms, and for the past 8 years or so have had IUDs.

I have always taken the view that if I became pregnant I wouldn't hesitate to terminate, and the one time it happened, I did. I was unlucky with the locum GP who referred me putting massive barriers in the way so it was a bit fraught, but okay in the end.

I've always said, "I don't want children, but I reserve the right to change my mind," although I never have. I've had one comment, from a colleague when I was about 20, who said, "Don't you think that's unnatural?" Silly woman.

FWIW I do have a friend who pushed and pushed and managed to get her sterilisation approved on the NHS when she was about 30, so it can be done.

SoMuchForSubtlety Thu 27-Nov-14 12:53:51

Claw your statement is a perfect example of the problem. You changed your mind. Others do not. It's not the point.

The point is whether other people should be allowed to tell a woman what she can and can't do with her own body.

ClawHandsIfYouBelieveInFreaks Thu 27-Nov-14 13:05:52

No...it's far from a perfect example. I changed MY mind. Others may too...but then it's too late. Ask me at 21 if I wanted a baby the answer was a definite NO.

I changed. I am so glad I hadn't been sterilized.

Ladyfoxglove Thu 27-Nov-14 13:14:17

i think female sterilisation is a bigger operation and a lot harder to reverse than male sterilisation.

It's also (still) unusual for a woman not to want to have children (and I say this as a childless woman, although mine was more circumstantial than any definite decision not to have children).

It's far more likely therefore, statistically speaking, that a woman WILL change her mind later on and go on to have children so that's perhaps why the medical profession is reluctant to charge ahead with sterilisation early on in life.

Lottapianos Thu 27-Nov-14 13:19:50

Totally with you Darkest. I asked to be considered for sterilisation at 27 and was told absolutely no way by my (lovely) GP. I am nearly 35 now and have had my massive wobbles on the way, but still pretty much convinced that motherhood is not for me.

I know that in my case, all the messages about 'you'll change your mind' and being childfree not being a legitimate option contributed hugely to my desire to make the decision a permanent and irreversible one. I was so sick of having my decision undermined by others that I wanted it done and dusted.

Few people would tell a 25 year old who was pregnant that they were far too young to make such a decision. And yet its just as irreversible and life changing as sterilisation, and in fact, carries much more long term responsibilitiy with it!

cailindana Thu 27-Nov-14 13:21:22

Subtlety, it's the entire point. No one can predict the future. Taking steps to remove a biological function that might not be possible to restore in the future is a massive undertaking, medically speaking, and it would be totally unethical for doctors to do it when there is a risk that the person will change their mind but be able to do nothing about it.

You might be absolutely sure at 21 that you never want children, but it is not guaranteed that you will still be sure at 31. It is possible to prevent pregnancy using non-permanent methods, so using a permanent method is not sensible given the risks involved.

cailindana Thu 27-Nov-14 13:23:10

Lotta - HCPs expressed surprise that I pregnant with my DS at 27. I didn't consider it young but a lot of them certainly did and didn't hide it. Pregnant 18 year olds get masses of judgement and derision.

cailindana Thu 27-Nov-14 13:23:34

I was pregnant

PenguinsandtheTantrumofDoom Thu 27-Nov-14 13:26:36

I think it's a very difficult procedure to access generally, especially female sterilisation. I have three DC's and am sure I have completed my family, but I have nevertheless been told that they would be reluctant to refer me until my youngest is at least 1 until I change my mind. And that even after that they are often reluctant because you might split, meet a new partner and want children with that partner. Or something may happen to one or more of your existing children.

I don't think it's so much that they don't believe you in your specific circumstance, as that life throws all of us curve balls and they are reluctant to change things so permanently. A GP I know sees quite a few men seeking vasectomy reversals apparently, which I can see would make you cautious.

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