EVE SIMMONS: ‘When I was 14 school gave us all baby dolls to look after but some girls still ended up pregant…’ Is a Cambridge president right to warn her students against allowing their biological clocks to tick down?  

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  • Murray Edwards College students are warned not to leave it too late for the kids
  • The plan is led by new president Dorothy Byrne, former head of C4 News.
  • She said she had her first child at age 44 and needed fertility treatment
  • Ms Byrne is a guest on this week’s Medical Minefield podcast to discuss the plan

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When I was 14, I had a child. All the girls in my year had one. They weren’t real, of course. They were robotic dolls – given to us in school to teach us, I guess, why we shouldn’t get pregnant in a hurry.

The wretched doll makes sporadic, deafening screams 12 times a day. This will stop only if you touch a toy bottle with its mouth or put a toy nappy on its bottom.

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A computer inside its plastic belly monitored how many times you ‘cooled’ it down. The higher the score, the more likely you are to pass the task and possibly be a good mom.

About five hours into my three-day parenting stint, I gave up. I had important jobs, like going to the cinema and trying to snatch someone’s older sister’s driver’s license so I could buy alcopop from the newspaper. I am afraid that some child may not fit.

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So I put it in a plastic bag. And then the boot of my mom’s car. And, finally, in the garage. Unsurprisingly, like most students, I failed the task. A friend actually managed to break the doll, leaving her in a state of permanent crying.

And given the number of girls in my school who had kids in their teens, it didn’t turn them away.

I thought about this last week when I read that Cambridge students could soon be taught fertility lessons. Dorothy Byrne, the new president of the all-female Murray Edwards College, plans to launch a seminar to warn Britain’s brightest young women about the dangers of ‘leaving too late’.

Eve Simmons, pictured at school, other right, was assigned a robot toddler at age 14 with the intention of teaching her the constant demands of raising a child with her friends.

Eve, pictured, has just turned 30 and feels like she is constantly being reminded of her biological clock

Eve, pictured, has just turned 30 and feels like she is constantly being reminded of her biological clock

All-female Murray Edwards College's new president, featured Dorothy Byrne, Britain's Most Talented Young Women

The new president of the all-female Murray Edwards College, pictured Dorothy Byrne, plans to launch seminars to warn Britain’s brightest young women about the dangers of ‘leaving too late’.

The former Channel 4 news chief feels he needs a warning, early in life, that the chances of conception start to drop ‘significantly’ after age 35.

It struck a chord with me. At 30, I feel like I’m constantly being reminded of my biological clock—whether it’s pushy relatives who ask me if my fiancé and I are ‘soon’ to start a family. thinking about’ or by television programs. And to be honest, robot kids aside, I feel like I grew up with these kind of messages: In Friends and Sex and the City, the episodes seemed to revolve around female characters, all of them. In their late 20s or mid-30s, pay attention to what they need to be married so they can get pregnant.

And on the other hand, women who don’t have children – both portrayed in real life and in pop culture – are seen as a little sad, even selfish or cynical.

I’m just not convinced that the proposed Cambridge lessons are needed, or particularly useful for young women who may be taking the first steps into becoming a career.

To learn more, we invited Dorothy Byrne to debate her case on Sunday’s Medical Minefield on The Mail. ‘Young women know that their fertility drops significantly at age 35, but in my experience, they don’t know the specific facts,’ he told me.

Interestingly, after fertility treatment, Dorothy had her first child at the age of 44. She said: ‘I wish I knew there was such a big difference between trying to get pregnant at 38 and then 40 and onwards.’

Fair enough. But is university the right time for this kind of discussion?

‘I absolutely think it is,’ she said. ‘You need to give people quite a bit of information before they really need it – so that they’re armed with it, ready.’

Dorothy Byrne isn’t the only one to be concerned about women going ‘missing’. Last month, reproductive medicine expert and chair of the Fertility Education Initiative, Professor Adam Balan, suggested a warning on contraception, alerting women to the risks of ‘leaving it too late’.

‘With cigarettes, you have health warnings about the adverse effects of smoking. You can take it on contraception, whether it’s a pack of condoms you get from the pub or the contraceptive pill,’ he said.

Eve Simmons was given a 14-year-old robot baby, along with all the other girls in her year to teach them how demanding a child can be.  He gave up the experiment within five hours of the three-day term.

Eve Simmons was given a 14-year-old robot baby, along with all the other girls in her year to teach them how demanding a child can be. He gave up the experiment within five hours of the three-day term.

Her remarks came as official figures show the UK birth rate has fallen to a historically low level – 1.58 children per woman.

But is the answer to asking students to keep doing it?

No, says Dr. Jess McMicking, a London-based gynecologist. ‘There’s a long gap between coming out of school at age 19 or 20 and having kids for most women early in life. As a young student, you are at a vulnerable age, surrounded by enormous pressures in terms of exams, career prospects and social life. I don’t think this is the right time to whip up this information.’

But what about the dreaded biological clock? Well, there is truth in this. But the idea that a woman’s fertility falls off a cliff in her mid-30s simply isn’t true.

Of course, over time the number of eggs women have has decreased.

By age 30, she has about 13 percent of her two million eggs at birth. Those that are not released during ovulation either die or are reabsorbed into the body. But that’s still about 150,000 eggs. After 30, that number keeps falling, and the quality of the eggs declines, meaning the baby has a higher risk of developing genetic problems such as Down syndrome.

Studies show that there is a one in three chance…

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