The last taboo?
Mum-to-be alex Jones on how she hopes her new documentary will smash the myths surrounding infertility and get people talking honestly about it
lex Jones recently revealed the wonderful news that she’s expecting her first baby with her husband, insurance broker Charlie
Thomson. The happy couple tied the knot on New Year’s Eve.
But One Show presenter Alex, 39, is very aware that not every couple can conceive so quickly. Indeed, her experience of watching friends struggle to get pregnant moved her to make a new documentary for BBC1, Alex Jones – Fertility & Me.
‘As we got into our late thirties, my friends and I kept having the same conversation about the fact that some of them conceived very easily and some had difficulty,’
Alex tells TV Times.
‘There are so many headlines and lots of conflicting advice about how to get pregnant. It’s an area riddled with myths and I wanted to decipher them all.’
With more women waiting till their thirties
Ato start a family, one in five babies are now born to a mother over the age of 35. Alex explores the true impact of age on fertility, talking to experts and visiting IVF labs.
‘We’ve all known from day dot that age is an issue, but I didn’t realise how much it affected the quality of your eggs,’ she admits. ‘We were filming in an IVF lab, watching a scientist trying to inject sperm into a 35-year-old egg. It just crumbled in front of my eyes because the membrane wasn’t strong enough.
‘It’s not the same for everybody, though. An expert I spoke to in Oxford said that age is a factor, but it’s not the be all and end all. There are lots of factors that contribute to how fertile you are.’
As one in seven couples has problems conceiving, Alex thinks this kind of documentary is long overdue, especially as modern pressures make it harder to settle down. She is particularly keen to stand up for women facing insensitive comments about putting their careers before motherhood.
‘I can’t think of any examples where somebody has gone out of their way to avoid having a child at what’s considered the right age. Nobody thinks, “I’m going to leave it as late as possible and take a gamble”. It doesn’t work like that.
‘People work, they move away from home, jobs take them here, there and everywhere and you find yourself having to make a new group of friends and settle into a new house in a new city. It takes longer to meet the right person and sometimes it’s not the right environment to conceive a baby.
‘It’s been splashed all over the papers that I’m pregnant with, “The baby I never thought I’d have”, but that’s not true. I still don’t consider 39 to be very old at all. I knew my life wasn’t in the correct position to have a child any sooner – I wasn’t with the right person – but nobody purposely leaves it late. Then people say, “Oh, I suppose you’re thinking about your career…” It’s just not the case.’
Alex is adamant there should be more information available to women years before they decide to have a baby.
‘We had nothing in school, and there wasn’t any literature in our 20s telling us to get checked for polycystic ovaries and fibroids. We weren’t armed with this information.
‘Likewise, for years my friends and I said that if we couldn’t get pregnant we would have IVF. What a naive thing to say! I learned that actually IVF is not available to everybody, it’s a postcode lottery, which is so unfair. Plus, the success rate is low. It’s not the insurance we thought it was.’
While Alex’s sincerity is unwavering, she has no desire to start a campaign for new IVF
name of show is previewed
guidelines. Instead, she hopes her documentary will allow other women to approach family planning with greater knowledge.
‘I’m the girl next door, telling a group of friends some facts and saying, “Listen, girls, this is what you’ve got to do if you want to get pregnant”. I had a friend going through IVF while we were filming and another trying to conceive naturally.
I was always ringing them, saying things like, “I’ve just seen this acupuncturist for the documentary, do you want her details?”’
Having filmed a whole programme about the difficulties of conception,
Alex was naturally relieved and delighted to discover she was pregnant.
‘The main thing I learnt was how precarious a process it is – the chances of that chemical reaction happening between an egg and a sperm is so minimal that it’s an absolute miracle.
‘I felt extremely lucky that it happened easily for us, but I always knew I’d feel that way, because I wanted to be a mum. When I started this journey I had no idea how fertile I was. I thought, “Oh my God, I’ve worked a lot, I’ve enjoyed myself, I’ve drunk wine… Is all this going to impact suddenly?” We were incredibly fortunate.’
And if you’re reading this panicking about your own fertility, don’t be disheartened. Alex is keen to emphasise that the documentary is a positive and uplifting look at ways to help couples have a baby.
‘There’s quite a taboo surrounding infertility and I really don’t know why. ‘A lot of what we read is quite negative and actually it’s not that scary. There’s a lot of hope and a lot of technology, along with experts who are absolutely incredible in their field. I want people to come away thinking there are ways to sort this out. It’s not all doom
and gloom.’ Emma Bullimore
new documentary Alex Jones – Fertility & Me With her One Show co-host Matt Baker Alex and husband charlie are proud parentsto-be
I’m the girl next door saying, ‘This is what you’ve got to do if you want to get pregnant’ Visiting an IVF lab was a real eye-opener