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However, amongst those women joining the private online GW Community born in the 1970s, it seems that social infertility is increasingly prevalent.The private and personal pain of being both single childless is so extreme that within the GW Online Community we have a special name for it – ‘Double Whammy’.The fact of having never been married or in the kind of long-term partnership in which the opportunity to try for a baby arose, seems to be a their stories because they don’t feel ‘entitled’ to their pain, grief and despair compared to those women who’ve suffered miscarriages, failed to conceive or who have experienced unsuccessful IVF.There is sometimes a sense of deep unworthiness, of being right at the bottom of some invisible pecking order of childless women and not quite ‘full members’ of the childless club, and so therefore not quite due Whereas just a generation ago, being an unmarried mother was to be the social outcast, now it’s the single, childless woman over 40 who carries the weight of shame.Very soon it will be the UK’s third National Fertility Awareness week which is being organised by Infertility Network UK, the British charity which supports those undergoing infertility treatment.Cue lots of ‘miracle baby stories’ in the press about couples that despaired of ever having a child but who managed thanks to the help of this amazing science.The week even ends with the annual hopefest that is The Fertility Show at London’s Olympia, an entire exhibition hall filled with stands from fertility clinics and associated industries looking to ‘educate’ (sell to) potential new ‘parents’ (customers).But what I bet we hear about during the week will be about the many women suffering in silence with a type of infertility so shameful they can hardly bear to talk about it.
Many of them have cared for vulnerable family members through their fertile years, have refrained from getting pregnant ‘accidentally’ without a partner’s consent and have worked hard as members of their families, workplaces and communities and have contributed to society as taxpayers.
I know some of these ‘spinsters’ personally and have met many others through Gateway Women, and a wonderfully kind, funny, attractive and diverse bunch they are.
It’s called ‘social infertility’ and it’s affecting a huge number of women in their 30s and 40s in the UK.
1 in 5 women in the UK born in the 1960s has turned 45 without having had a child – some by choice but many by circumstance, this is double what it was a generation ago.
Although not having a partner features in many of the stories of those of us born in the 1960s (like myself), it doesn’t compare to the frequency with which those born in the 1970s seem to be experiencing it.
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The UK Office for National Statistics has a fairly blunt recording tool – live births by the last day of a woman’s 45th year – so it won’t be for another decade that we’ll have the full data.