Fertility on the Fashion Scene

Recently, one of the global fashion industry’s leading influencers – Camille Charrière – wrote an important story in British Vogue sharing her fertility journey with hundreds of thousands of young women, raising awareness of infertility among women in their early 30s.

Her shared insights and experiences may help other young women around the world to take note of fertility issues that so many people remain unaware of, and inspire them to take control of their fertility before medical treatments like IVF become necessary.

On the Business of Fashion 500 list of people shaping the global fashion industry, Camille Charrière is a contemporary fashion blogger known for her sharp and irreverent style, that has seen her collaborate with brands like Chloé, Mango, H&M, Tommy Hilfiger and Harrods.

She was just 33 when she decided to try to have a baby. A year and a half into physically and emotionally demanding IVF (in vitro fertilisation) fertility treatment, she recently shared her experiences in the popular British Vogue to encourage other young women to have “more honest conversations about fertility – and not just with girlfriends!” In this article, we share some of these insights, and hope readers who are already in their 30s will heed Camille’s fertility advice.

Camille says that growing up as the eldest of four and one of many cousins in a large, loving family, she never really thought of her baby-making capabilities as something to worry about. She was single for 7 years, before meeting her husband when she was 31, which is – as she notes: “… past your prime (no offence to women over 30, biology is a bitch)”. When the topic of children came up, she agreed to get a coil and revisit the conversation later down the line. The couple did so in 2021 and had the coil removed.

After a year of trying, she says, a fertility doctor revealed that “we might not be able to conceive a child the fun way”. “Why does no one talk about the mental shift required to transition from spending all your young adult life trying NOT to get pregnant, to wanting a pregnancy so badly it’s all you think about?” she asks.

There really is a biological clock!

“Having read up on fertility as part of my stop-start IVF journey, I now know that girls are born with all the egg cells they will ever have (approximately two million); no new egg cells are made during a woman’s lifetime,” writes Chamille. “The vast majority of those eggs are reabsorbed pre-puberty (the New York Times once referred to this as ‘the Great Egg Disappearance’ which sounds like a Gillian Flynn thriller, and I’ll admit is a great conversation starter: ‘Girl, have yours gone?’)”.

After puberty and most noticeably from age 27, a woman is less likely to get pregnant and more likely to need fertility treatments the older she is when trying to conceive. But it is a fact that not many people are aware of – including millions of women who are delaying starting a family until later in life, only to find that even in their early 30s, they are no longer producing eggs in sufficient quantities or quality.

“Your egg reserve is low.” Camille says those words are how she found out that she – like so many other women worldwide – was “past prime” when it came to producing eggs that could result in a natural pregnancy.

Women generally have fewer chances of getting pregnant after the age of 35 and the chances of falling pregnant naturally after the age of 40 is less than 15%. Most women over the age of 45 are unable get pregnant naturally.

“We need to confront the reality that, no matter how privileged we are to have access to it, sometimes birth control can make us miserable, sick and uncomfortable – and acknowledge that it’s okay to switch methods or come off it altogether. (Condoms exist for a reason.)” comments Chamille. “We need to know our bodies, understand our cycles and make our voices heard as major disparities in women’s health persist across the globe. Women and girls deserve the best healthcare at every stage of their lives, but health professionals simply cannot deliver that without listening to our lived experiences and concerns.”

Realise you are not alone!

“Loneliness. Feeling totally isolated from normal life. The pervasive feeling of utter uselessness.” This is how Chamille – and many others facing fertility treatments – describe the infertility experience.

The truth, however, is that there are hundreds of thousands of couples around the world – one in five, or 20%, according to statistics – facing fertility challenges. It is important to realise you are not alone – there are many facing the same challenges as you are, and there is an entire global community of fertility specialists and experts who can provide the medical assistance you require to have a baby.

“I wanted to trust the process. Like so many women around me, I told myself the time would come when the timing was right. ‘No need to get your knickers in a twist over something you ultimately have no control over.’ I was wrong,” says Camille. “I think it’s incredibly important to share information and experiences.”

Talk about it!

“I truly believe in having the hard stuff out in the open, because I’m convinced sharing our stories is what helps us overcome stigma and loneliness,” says Chamille. “There are the regrets – the hard conversations I never had with myself, with my parents, with my partners.

“A feeling persists that talking about these issues in a broader, more public context, feels almost shameful. I’ll admit that it took even me, a chronic oversharer, over a year to talk about my fertility status on my own social media channels, mainly because it felt so raw. (Side note: it feels like everyone I know is pregnant. My social media feed has become an endless scroll of bumps and babies. I’ve muted those who overshare – it’s not that I can’t hold space for other people’s happiness, rather that I need to preserve my own heart.)

“I wonder, too, if in being brought up as independent young women, blessed with the options of fertility treatment and egg-freezing that our grandparents never had, we have become less interested in having fertility conversations out loud. We have the illusion of greater control over our bodies – but, in reality, we’re being less and less open about the problems we’re facing.

“We need to be having conversations about fertility at every age, whether we think we want kids or not. We need not to be afraid to be upfront about outlining our desires with our partners without necessarily waiting for a ‘safe’ amount of time. We need to be booking in reproductive health check-ups from an earlier age.”

Concerned about your fertility at your age?

If you are concerned about the effect of your age on your fertility, we would like to invite you to speak to one of our fertility specialists at Cape Fertility. It is as simple as contacting us by clicking here

In addition to offering a range of medical treatment options when you need assistance to start your family, we also offer alternative options such as egg freezing for women who are not planning to fall pregnant by the age of 33. This allows women to ensure they have many good quality eggs, should they struggle to conceive after the age of 35.

At Cape Fertility, we value each individual patient and we look forward to providing you with individualised and personalised care, affordable quality fertility treatment, and higher success rates at our purpose-built premises in the beautiful city of Cape Town.