Thu. Aug 18th, 2022

‘Do not forget to have a baby!’ Dorothy Byrne, president of the entire female Cambridge University College, introduces fertility education, telling students not to leave a family too late – after her own daughter was conceived via IVF at 45

  • Women at one-sex schools at Cambridge University would receive fertility and childcare training, including advice on when to plan a family
  • Dorothy Byrne, new president of Murray Edwards, has introduced new seminars
  • Byrne, 69, said she would stop young women from ‘forgetting to have a baby’ as she almost did – during IVF to give birth to her own daughter, now 24
  • The average British birth rate fell to 1.53 per Female 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 education to students, saying the decision was influenced by her own experience of struggling to conceive in her forties.

Former Channel 4 News chief executive Dorothy Byrne, 69, recently took over as president of Murray Edwards College and says the new seminars are designed to help women better understand that fertility can drop dramatically after the age of 35. year.

Byrne gave birth to her daughter, now 24, as a single woman at 45 after IVF treatment. Average UK birth rates have fallen to 1.53 per month. Female in 2021, from 2 in 2000 and 1.93 in 2011.

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Dorothy Byrne, 69, new president at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, said she would stop young women from 'forgetting to have a baby' as she almost did - during IVF to give birth to her own daughter, now 24

Dorothy Byrne, 69, new president at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, said she would stop young women from ‘forgetting to have a baby’ as she almost did – during IVF to give birth to her own daughter, now 24

Women in one-sex schools at Cambridge University should receive training in fertility and childcare, including advice on when to plan a family

Women in one-sex schools at Cambridge University should receive training in fertility and childcare, including advice on when to plan a family

She told The Sunday Times: ‘Young women are being taught that they must all do well in school, get an education, succeed in their careers and be beautiful.

The college president added that she first put her own career into television news, then almost sacrificed her own family: ‘What is lost along the way is that you forget about having a baby, which I almost did.’

Byrne said she felt the emphasis on having a successful career and the message of not risking getting pregnant at a young age had left many women who did not feel responsible for when they would start a family.

The new classes will describe how fertility declines rapidly after the age of 35 in women.

Earlier this year, a fertility expert slapped famous mothers who have children in their mid to late 40s to mislead women into assuming that fertility lasts well into the fifth decade.

Professor Adam Balen, a former president of the British Fertility Society, said that women in their late 30s and 40s came to him every day and said: ‘I’m just surprised – I did not realize that my fertility was so poor. ‘

Fertility declines after the age of 35, says the British Fertility Society, where the UK's average birth rate drops to 1.53 per year.  Female in 2021, from 2 in 2000 and 1.93 in 2011

Fertility declines after the age of 35, says the British Fertility Society, where the UK’s average birth rate drops to 1.53 per year. Female in 2021, from 2 in 2000 and 1.93 in 2011

‘The chance for [fertility treatment] the work goes down with age, ‘he said. ‘The high-profile celebrities who have children in their mid to late 40s may do so with donated eggs rather than their own, but of course they often do not.’

Women in their 40s undergoing IVF treatment tend to produce fewer eggs – and of lower quality – than younger women when given medication to stimulate production.

For those over the age of 42 who use their own eggs, the chance of a resultant embryo leading to a live birth is less than five percent, according to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

Among those over 42 who use donated eggs, live birth rates exceed 25 percent – about average for IVF as a whole.

Prof Balen, senior clinician at Leeds Fertility, said: ‘Women in their 20s should start thinking seriously about when they might want to start a family. A 25-year-old woman has a 25 percent chance of getting pregnant a month. At 35, it’s probably more in the 15 percent range. At 40, it’s probably only one or two percent.

‘If you want to have the opportunity to have three children, you should probably start trying when you are 23. If you want to have two children, you can leave it until you are 28. If you are happy with one, probably start , when you are 32. ‘

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