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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Right time for a baby: The reporter's story
By BBC presenter Kate Silverton
Reporting for Panorama

Kate Silverton

"Working on a programme about having babies was always going to hit home more than most stories that I've worked on. I'm 35 and, as yet, don't have children. It's a subject if I'm honest I have been avoiding. Following years of medical complications I ended up having an emergency operation and was left with just one ovary.

I remember the surgeon telling me I should try for children sooner rather than later - but that was seven years ago and despite having a wonderful relationship and a great job I just didn't feel "ready". I think I've had my head in the sand about it ever since - I haven't wanted to confront the idea that I might not one day be able to have a family of my own.

So I was somewhat surprised at how emotional I felt when I met 36 year old Cheryl Smalle and her partner Nigel who were just about to have a baby. When she showed me the nursery that she had prepared and baby clothes she'd bought I was struck by a sudden sense that this was something I may never have.

A warning, from Professor Bill Ledger, one of the country's leading fertility experts, wasn't going to make me feel any better.

He explained that women who put off having a baby are taking a gamble; "Most couples will have a pregnancy if they decide to try age 35, but if they wait until they're 40 or over, the majority will have problems."

One of his patients is 45 year old Linda Towse. She's been trying for a baby for the last five years without success.

She's undergone two IVF cycles for which she paid privately at another hospital. They were unsuccessful. She went on to discover that she had fibroids and a condition called adenomyosis which may have been the reason behind her inability to conceive. She is now having treatment for this and will attempt one final go at IVF later this year. The chances of this succeeding though are small. Professor Ledger says she has between a five and 10 per cent chance of getting pregnant.

Linda, like many of us, who have seen the media coverage of celebrities having babies well into their 40s, was never aware that by putting off starting a family later in life she may encounter problems.

In fact most women who leave it that late will have difficulties in trying for a baby.

It's sobering news for women like me, who are faced with that decision.

When I eventually saw Cheryl with her new born baby, it felt very special and made me think that this is not something I want to miss out on. I'm not sure what the future holds but I haven't given up on the idea of having a family."

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