People

“There are many reasons why women don’t have children”: Nicola Sturgeon aims to break “taboo” of miscarriage

Posted by
Sarah Biddlecombe
Published

There is a recurring question aimed at women who don't have children - "when are you going to start a family?" - that frequently highlights the sad fact we live in an era where womens' bodies are not their own.

You need only look at media treatment of childfree celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Kim Cattrall and Cameron Diaz, all of whom have spoken out against the constant questioning of their decision not to have children, for proof of this.

And it's not just A-list celebrities who are constantly scrutinised over their lifestyle choices but politicians, too.

Now, Nicola Sturgeon has spoken for the first time about the miscarriage she suffered from in a bid to "challenge some of the assumptions and judgments that are still made about women – especially in politics – who don’t have children”.

Jennifer Aniston has spoken about her decision to be childfree

Jennifer Aniston has spoken about her decision to be childfree

Scotland's First Minister revealed she had had a miscarriage in a serialisation of the new book Scottish National Party Leaders, published by The Sunday Times yesterday

The book reveals that Sturgeon suffered from the miscarriage shortly before the 2011 Holyrood election, when she was 40 years old and working as Deputy First Minister.

Sturgeon, 46, who has faced incessant questioning about her childfree status throughout her career, said she made the decision to discuss the miscarriage in order dispel the myth she had chosen her career over starting a family.

She told Mandy Rhodes, the journalist and author of the book, that she did not want young girls who consider her a role model to believe that was the case. Instead, she conveyed her hope that having a family would not have negatively affected her career.

“If the miscarriage hadn’t happened, would I be sitting here as first minister right now? It’s an unanswerable question. I just don’t know. I’ve thought about it, but I don’t know the answer. I’d like to think yes, because I could have shown that having a child wasn’t a barrier to all of this, but in truth I don’t know.

“Having a baby might have so fundamentally changed our lives that things would have taken a different path, but if somebody gave me the choice now to turn back the clock 20 years and say you can choose to start to think about this much earlier and have children, I’d take that.

"But if the price of that was not doing what I’ve gone on to do, I wouldn’t accept that, no.”

“If the miscarriage hadn’t happened, would I be sitting here as first minister right now? It’s an unanswerable question."

“If the miscarriage hadn’t happened, would I be sitting here as first minister right now? It’s an unanswerable question."

Following publication of the extract, Sturgeon took to Twitter to reinforce her hope that speaking about the issue would "contribute in a small way to a future climate in which these matters are respected as entirely personal, rather than pored over and speculated about as they often are now".

“There are many reasons why women don’t have children," she wrote. "Some of us simply don’t want to, some of us worry about the impact on our career – and there is still so much to do, through better childcare, more progressive working practices, and more enlightened attitudes, to make sure we don’t feel we have to choose.

“And sometimes, for whatever reason, having a baby just doesn’t happen – no matter how much we might want it to.”

Sturgeon finished: “For me, as for many women, all of these things have been true at different times of my life – the point is that judgements and assumptions shouldn’t be made about what are personal choices and experiences.”

In response to the flood of well-wishes she received online following the publication of the extract, Sturgeon also tweeted her hope that her story would help break the "taboo" of discussing miscarriage.

And with an estimated one in five pregnancies ending in miscarriage, more conversation surrounding this painful topic is certainly needed.