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"Nature is not a feminist": Kirstie Allsopp defends fertility comments on Newsnight

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Kirstie Allsopp has appeared on BBC's Newsnight to defend her comments about women needing to have babies before going to university, in a heated debate with Vagenda magazine co-founder Holly Baxter.

The Location, Location, Location presenter, 42, came under fire after she called for women to put off higher education in order to save for a deposit and "have a baby by the time you’re 27", in an interview with the Telegraph this weekend.

Allsopp stood by her remarks on last night's edition of Newsnight , after Baxter branded her viewpoint "depressing" in a discussion chaired by Jeremy Paxman.

"I want all the things you want," she told Baxter, after Baxter said having a career and children should not be mutually exclusive.

"But nature is not with you and I. Nature is not a feminist.

"By all means go to university, have a career, do what makes you happy - travel, write - but be aware of the fertility window and make your choices in an informed way."

She added that young women who know they want to have children "should look at the choices in front of them and ask themselves, 'Should I re-order this choices in order to reflect that the only window closing is my fertility window?'"

Vagenda's Holly Baxter

But journalist Baxter countered: "What I find is that women are constantly reminded in the media about their fertility, about their biological clock ticking, about how they should between having a career and children."

She noted that the question of fertility should also involve men, and that their choices should be equally affected by the desire to have children or otherwise.

Allsopp agreed, "That's why [the reaction to her interview] has particularly enraged me. Because I've been condemned for saying it, but people haven't read the whole interview.

"I said in that interview that if I had a son aged 26 in a loving relationship I would say to him, address the topic of what you both want for your future.

"It is important that men understand about the fertility window just the same as women."

She said she wanted women to avoid the "heartbreak of infertility."

Allsopp also revealed her own quest to have children, saying she was "very lucky" to find the right man (partner Ben Andersen) aged 32 and went onto have two sons with him - although she was ready to have children long before that.

"I was desperate for children at a very early age but no-one would have them with me," she added.

In her original interview with the Telegraph, Allsopp said: "At the moment, women have 15 years to go to university, get their career on track, try and buy a home and have a baby. That is a hell of a lot to ask someone. As a passionate feminist, I feel we have not been honest enough with women about this issue.

"I don’t have a girl, but if I did I’d be saying 'Darling, do you know what? Don’t go to university. Start work straight after school, stay at home, save up your deposit – I’ll help you, let’s get you into a flat. And then we can find you a nice boyfriend and you can have a baby by the time you’re 27.

"There is a huge inequality, which is that women have this time pressure that men don’t have."

Should women really put off higher education in order to have children earlier?

Stylist spoke exclusively to Jean Twenge, author of The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant, for her take on Allsopp's comments and the debate around fertility.

"Having children young works for some women - but has its own challenges," Twenge told us.

"For most women who want a career, or just want to make enough money to be solidly middle class, skipping university and having children very young is not a smart strategy.

"One study found that every year women postpone having children leads to a 10 percent increase in earnings. It's difficult to go to university and build a career even when children are in school, and most employers are not eager to hire a 50-year-old woman (or even a 40-year-old woman) just starting out.

"Studies on modern women show that fertility remains at a reasonable level through one's late 30s, so starting a family around 35 works very well, and allows women to go to university and establish a career before they have children. It's then easier to afford a nanny or day care, and thus easier to continue one's career.

"The statistic saying that 1 out of 3 women will not get pregnant in a year after 35 comes from 500-year-old birth records. More recent studies find that more than 80% of women ages 35 to 39 will get pregnant within a year. And if they don't, success rates after fertility treatment are very good in this age group. Where women run into trouble -- either trying to conceive naturally or through fertility treatment -- is when they wait until 40 and later.

"That's when the fertility decline becomes considerable, and by 45 most women cannot get pregnant anymore."

Did you choose to have a baby before pursuing your career? Have you chosen to wait? Or do you still find yourself struggling to know the right time to have a child? Tell us about your experiences at stories@stylist.co.uk

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