"Women are being lied to": Kirstie Allsopp defends controversial remarks on fertility at Stylist Life Lessons event

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Kirsie Allsopp has defended her controversial claim that women should put off higher education and "have a baby by the time you’re 27" at a Stylist magazine event this evening.

Speaking at the second of Stylist's Life Lessons lecture series in London's Ham Yard hotel tonight, the 43-year-old presenter and mum-of-two told the audience that she was initially taken back by the storm of criticism sparked by her remarks in a Telegraph interview three months ago.

But, she told the crowd tonight, the reaction then made her more determined to put her point across that we, as women "are taking risks with our fertility".

Kirstie, a self-professed feminist, admitted that raising awareness of the issue was "a new thing for me".

"There aren’t enough people talking about this," she said. "It’s about not being judgemental. I think it is something all young women and young men should talk about.

"I think women are being lied to. The facts cannot be got away from. It gets more and more difficult to have children over the age of 35. You have a 10 percent chance of conceiving a child over 40.

"I want to say to women: be honest with each other, with your partners, daughters and sons - know that you can have careers at any age, you can go to university at any age. You can do a thousand brilliant things at any age.

"But just for now, we haven't opened the fertility window any wider. It is easier and simpler and less of a heartache to just have children when our bodies allow us to."

She added that it was important that if women in their thirties with boyfriends or husbands wanted children, they should highlight to them that, 'I don’t have as much time as you do'.

"Plenty of women don't want children and that's fine - but if you do, you need to know the facts," she said. "Society has shifted immensely; as intelligent women we frown on women having children young."

The property expert also opened up about her own quest to have children.

"No one was interested in me in my 20s. I had 'please marry me' tattooed on my forehead. It was so vital to me to get married and have children," she said.

"I hit my 30s and then I was very lucky to meet my boyfriend [partner Ben Andersen, whom Kirstie met aged 32]. I was 35 when I had my first child and 37 when I had my second.

"We are no more able to have children later than we have ever been. I don't say this smugly - I got in just under the wire."

Kirstie, who first hit our screens with co-presenter Phil Spencer in 2000, is now filming her 20th season of the hit Channel 4 show Location, Location, Location.

"I am someone who never thought they would have a professional career. I didn't do very well at school or go to uni and then I started work and thought, 'Wow this is brilliant. I can prove myself,'" she added.

"But always in the back of my mind was, 'I'm only doing this until I'm married.'"

Kirstie was praised for her honesty in highlighting the need for women to have children young by members of the Stylist audience.

Her co-presenters also supported her stance, including TV presenter June Sarpong, who admitted that, at the age of 37, she was aware of her own fertility window.

"Thank you for saying that," June said, in response to Kirstie's comments on fertility. "We need to be honest. Mother Nature is a bitch. Younger girls need to look at careers differently. Look at women like Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright – they had kids in their 20s and then built their careers.

"Don't waste time on a man who doesn't want children if you do," she added.

Kirstie came under fire in June, when she first aired the opinion that women should postpone university in order to save for a deposit and start a family.

"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," she said, in an interview with the Telegraph. "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."

Allsopp's remarks triggered anger among feminist campaigners such as Vagenda's Holly Baxter, who branded her viewpoint "depressing", in a debate on Newsnight.

"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," Baxter said.

She noted that having a career and children should not be mutually exclusive.

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

Jean Twenge, author of The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant, told Stylist that having children young worked for some women but it came with its own challenges.

"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," she said.

"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."

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? Tweet us @stylistmagazine with the hashtag #LifeLessons, or join the comments section below

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