The last taboo?

TV Times - - Interview -

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

Tues­day / BBC1 / 10.45Pm (11.45Pm in scot­land AND north­ern ire­land)

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

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