Updated: Aug 9, 2022
Most of us have heard the term ‘Biological Clock’, and for those of us with ovaries, or in a partnership with someone with them, likely more than once!
Where did the term ‘biological clock’ come from?
According to the Modern Fertility Blog, The Washington Post first used the phrase “the biological clock” in an article in 1978 called “The Clock Is Ticking for the Career Woman.” The author, Richard Cohen, declared: “Most [women] said that they could hear the clock ticking… … You hear it wherever you go.”
From then, the biological clock has morphed to predominantly describe a woman's fertile period, typically ticking the loudest once you turn 30.
There is a misconception that the fertility clock stops all together at 35. In this really great article by Jean M. Twenge, she critiques the outdated nature of stats backing the ‘biological clock’:
“The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 percent—was also calculated based on historical populations.
In other words, millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment.”
Science, fertility treatments, and testing have come SO far - coupled with our booming population numbers, the statistics of women delivering healthy babies over the age of 30 should be comforting.
There are many outdated and downright hurtful terms that are still used to describe a woman's fertility journey. One company, Peanut, a social network connecting women through various stages of motherhood, strives to replace these harmful and outdated terms. Peanut teamed up with an expert panel of linguists, therapists, and ob-gyns, and reached out to their community of users, to create a long-overdue glossary of modernized terms.
Here are ten (of many!) outdated terms sourced from the Peanut community to describe fertility, pregnancy loss, pregnancy, birth, and motherhood — along with the updated suggestions for these terms:
Breast is best → Fed is best
Geriatric mother → 35+ mom
Barren → Reproductive challenges
Inhospitable womb/uterus → Uterine lining challenges
Habitual aborter → Recurrent miscarriage
Lazy uterus → Uterine atony challenges
Spontaneous abortion → Miscarriage or pregnancy loss
Failure to progress → Slowed labor
Natural birth → Vaginal/surgical birth
Unfavourable cervix → Non-dilated cervix
It’s clear that the language we use to describe the entire fertility, conception, loss, and motherhood journey needs to be actively updated and brought into the 21st century.
I hope this post brought you a slight sense of comfort and reassurance in knowing that age is not the only factor one needs to consider on their conception journey. Also, the acknowledgement that not everyone hears the ticking of the biological clock - and that is 100% okay! The decision & desire to have children is personal. Remember to be gentle with those in your life who are grappling with this choice, or lack thereof.
If you are someone who feels as though the ticking is getting louder and louder, remember that there are options, resources, and time. You are not alone.