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Tick, Tick, Tock, Goes the Biological Clock

Signifying how our biological clock can feel like a timer running out as our fertility decreases. Image shows a blue hue on a lightbulb which is glitching.

(or so they say)

The so-called biological clock has been referenced in almost every soap opera and sitcom since the 70s. The concept of a biological clock is based on the idea that we all have a ticking clock – or for some a ticking time bomb – inside of us, that we become increasingly aware of throughout our twenties and into our thirties. Most of the examples we see refer to women, haunted by the ever-increasing ferocity of the ticking within, as their age increases, fertility decreases and slowly wastes away before their eyes. But what about men? The biological clock, or rather what it represents, is not something exclusive to women. Men don’t necessarily experience the same societal pressures that women do – it’s much less common for men to be asked when they’re going to have kids – it does still happen. But how worried should we really be about our fertility decreasing with age?

How relevant is our biological clock, and why do we put so much emphasis on it?

There is a good deal of evidence to support our obsession with our biological clock. According to the British Fertility Society, female fertility begins to decrease around the age of thirty-five while male fertility begins to decrease between the ages of forty and forty-five. With this in mind, the concept of a biological clock is founded in some element of truth – our fertility decreases with time, therefore there is a time limit on our ability to conceive. Women are born with all of the eggs they’ll ever have (approximately two million) which will decrease to around twenty-five thousand by the age of thirty seven. Men continue to produce sperm daily, but after forty-five both the quality and quantity of sperm produced will decline. Our biological clocks are very real – even if we don’t all hear them ticking in our heads – but is all the emotional stress this concept causes really worth it? 

Do we need to worry?

As with most things in life, worrying about our biological clock is natural, but unhelpful. For those of us who are worried about not being ready for children by the time they hit thirty-five and their uterus begins to self-destruct, there are many options. Egg freezing and egg or sperm donation allows us to have children later in life, either by prolonging our fertility or using donated sperm or egg cells. 

For those still unconvinced, allow us to provide a little comfort: everyone is different. Some have children early and some have them late, some use donors or surrogates, some adopt and some foster, some have children with a partner and some have them on their own, and some don’t have children at all. There is no right path, only the right path for you. While the biological clock is a very real thing, fertility is affected by so many different factors other than age. Stressing about our biological clocks is a waste of both our time and energy, and the societal pressures to have children by a certain age only makes this harder for many. 

We’ll leave you with something a clinical biologist told us:

“Biologically, you should have children in your teens and twenties. Emotionally, you should have them in your thirties and forties. But financially, you should have them in your fifties and sixties. So just have them when you want to.”

Disclaimer: Gender is experienced differently by all, particularly when it comes to our fertility. Our articles are written by a variety of authors, all of whom bring their experiences into their writing. Some articles will reflect these experiences more than others, and our goal is always to create content that represents all families.