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By Kate Brayden

I don't trust doctors with my body.

First of all, they're not Gods, they're human. As a young woman, and especially for people of colour and for those with disabilities, trusting someone with your body can be a dangerous mistake. 

Second of all; I have been misdiagnosed numerous times during my three years of chronic pain, yet I managed to get diagnosed with endometriosis in three years when the average amount of time is remarkably longer. In fact, it takes the regular person with a uterus nine years in Ireland to get handed their scratch card with the unlucky result on it.

My father is a pharmacologist, and when I asked him why the funding for research regarding this particular illness is so low, he said that it was presumably because of it's rarity. I then pointed out that it affects one in 10 people with uteruses (to include the transgender community), and he was undeniably disturbed. It's one of the main links to female infertility, yet the progress and pain which women have to go through to be believed and treated is still preposterously lengthy. 

Endometriosis is an illness affecting people with uteruses, where tissue which lines the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside your womb. It commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and tissue lining your pelvis, but can appear in the bowel and bladder also. Displaced endometrial tissue continues to act as if everything was regular- it thickens, breaks down and bleeds every time you get your period. It becomes trapped, without any way to exit the body. The symptoms include heavy bleeding during menstruation, lower back pain, pain during sex, infertility, pain during urination or with bowel movements, nausea, bloating and dysmenorrhea (painful periods.) It's zero craic, I'll tell you that for free.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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It's often misdiagnosed as IBS, ovarian cysts, Pelvic Inflammatory Disorder (PIV) or even just female hysteria, due to the 'gender pain gap'. Back in the day, people genuinely created an illness surrounding female mental health, with symptoms attributing to; delusions, nervousness, hallucinations, emotional outbursts and various urges of the sexual variety. A bit like witch-hunting, where 'deviant' women (basically all the single ladies and spinsters) were presumed to be the devil's workers purely out of misogyny. The word 'womb' actually translates to 'hysteria', insinuating that anyone cursed with this life-bearing organ is marked with it's limitations and presumptions about the woman's mind and body.

Caroline Criado Perez' vast and valuable work, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, argues that the gender pain gap is part and pace of something bigger; “gender data gap.” The data which society has collected is typically about men's experiences, and most often straight, white men. The data is used to allocate research funding and design decisions all around us from public transport to housing, healthcare to infrastructure. The 'default', is always male, she says.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Pain medication has been designed by men with men in mind as the default user, therefore the side effects are rarely tested on women. This is only one small example of the repercussions in female healthcare of the gender data gap. We are twice as likely to die of heart related diseases, and far less likely to be given pain relief or treated immediately in the Emergency Department.

After suffering for two years of chronic pain, I know when to spot a doctor who sees my symptoms as 'psychosomatic'. That's in inverted commas because ALL pain is real, even for those whose emotion is controlling their physical torment. After exhausting all my resources in the Irish healthcare system as well as the UK, I decided it was time to remove all my savings from the bank and book a plane ticket to Washington DC. When you have intense chronic pain every single day and doctors have no idea how to help you, spontaneous and stubborn choices are easy. I learned to go with my gut, and to stand up for myself in clinics. Many female chronic pain sufferers maintain that they receive noticeably better treatment and empathy if her boyfriend or husband is in the room with them. I can also vouch for this. When my boyfriend accompanied me to doctor appointments, the practitioner would often turn to him for answers to questions which were directed at me, or about me. 'Health-care gaslighting' is oh so real, and I have lost count of how many times I was told to 'take a Panadol' when I went to A&E.

One of my first consultant experiences where I was having extreme abdominal cramping, nausea and burning sensations in my pelvis, back and legs was in a major maternity hospital in Dublin. It was intimidating for a 21-year-old woman who was neither pregnant nor accompanied by anyone. The consultant who I waited four months in crippling pain to meet was a prominent doctor whose name was tied to the CervicalCheck scandal. Basically, I waited to see a doctor who was destined to shrug me off. 

It went downhill from there. Over the course of two and a half years, I had nerve blocker injections, was put on Lyrica and Amitriptylene (two nerve pain medications with enormously harsh side effects and little worth), had intense physiotherapy, diet transformation, two inconclusive biopsies, smear tests, hormone treatments, and every blood, allergy and auto-immune test under the sun. I was refused a CT scan and an MRI, and decided it was time to get a laparoscopy. This is the only way for a woman to find out if she has endometriosis, and despite the fact that I fit all the symptoms, it was never offered to me. Just coming up to my second year of consistent pain, I was sent to a consultant gynaecologist in the Mater Private to stop my menstrual cycle. My nerve pain was cyclical and I desperately wanted to stop this aspect of my pain. I requested a laparoscopy from a relatively young, male doctor, and was refused. I explained that aspects of my pain fitted the symptoms, but nevertheless he denied it. After calling a family member into the room for back-up, he eventually agreed and I was scheduled in for the keyhole surgery. 

I was brought in some time later for my results, instead of being called over the phone or sent an email. He spoke to me for under two minutes, said there was no evidence for my pain and my GP ceased my pain medication. He said there was no endometriosis in the scans, and that he had no other ideas to offer me for my mysterious chronic illness. In under two minutes and for €200, his words translated to; 'I don't believe you. You're being dramatic.' I stormed out of his office and slammed the door on the Irish healthcare system.

Six months later I was on a plane to see one of the top doctors in the US, and knew I wouldn't regret a thing. I met the doctor in a serene clinic in Washington DC, and he greeted me with a hug. Already I had more confidence, even though I was paying a huge price for it.

Two hours with the doctor included an examination, a comprehensive survey of my entire medical history since birth (mental, physical and sexual) and a consultation. As it turns out, I also walked away with a surgery plan and diagnosis. After three years, I got my hope back in two hours. I'd have paid millions if I had it, and it was worth every cent. I booked the surgery for a few months later, and organised time off work. Then I booked my flights to New York, packed my bags and brought two family members who would take care of me for the four week recovery. Three of those weeks were spent holed up, unable to move, in a New Jersey Airbnb. After the surgery, my doctor (who has a stellar reputation and has carried out over 800 of these surgeries) said that endometriosis was mysteriously found during the procedure. He exclaimed that it was the first time he'd ever seen it in one of his patients, and that it was in an extremely rare place which no other doctor of his type would have been able to remove except him. He's full of confidence in himself, but he's right to be this way. He gives women their lives back and sees them go on to live without pain and to be able to have children and happy, healthy relationships. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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I pushed aside my surprise about this setback, and focused on my nerve removal surgery recovery. Six gruelling weeks later, I had watched enough Netflix to power a large, densely populated city and was ready to fly back to New York for my check-up. I brought the laparoscopy from the Mater Private one year previously along with me for my surgeon to inspect. He had sent off the tissue to the pathology department, who were baffled by this and said they disagreed with his diagnosis. They had no suggestion for what it could be, despite the fact that the tissue looks exactly like endometriosis lesions. For those who aren't aware, endometriosis lesions look like black gunpowder rings. (Kind of like something from Stranger Things.)

My surgeon and a gynaecologist both examined my Irish scans and immediately pointed out the disease in the images, thus diagnosing me with the illness. It's safe to say I am not impressed with the Mater, but I also feel let down by nearly every doctor who saw me. I went to a GP with this pain over 15 times (5 separate GPs, I might add), visited three Irish hospitals on numerous occasions, flew to the UK multiple times to see professors in the chronic pain field and was misdiagnosed. I am now on a progesterone pill, which will hopefully suppress my symptoms, and am investigating whether the endometriosis is in my bladder. Yet how can I trust what results I am given in the Irish healthcare system, after this? 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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There is so much left to be done, when it comes to this illness. In terms of funding, it is increasingly shown that male pleasure trumps female pain; research of erectile dysfunction receives more funding than every female pain disorder combined, despite the fact that one-in-three women will experience this at some stage.

A blood test is currently in the works to discover endometriosis without having to undergo a flawed keyhole surgery. Amazingly, a new pill is being trialled which could potentially cure the lesions themselves, according to scientists at Washington School of Medicine.  It's only early days; the drug has been tested on mice, but it's hoped the human trials will present similar findings. The antibiotics could potentially cure or reverse the effects of endometriosis, essentially ending the pain of millions of women. While I wish this pill could have been available three years ago, I will still stand up for myself to demand access to this treatment, I will still research the side effects and long term tested effects doggedly, and I will still never stop questioning every detail a doctor tells me. It could change your life, even if they call you hysterical.

Feature image credit: Flickr/@P_I_O_T_R

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Jennifer Zamparelli has opened up about a decision she made about her fertility after she welcomed her second kid.

The TV presenter revealed that she had her tubes tied as she and her husband Lau don't want any more children.

The 39-year-old is mum to four-year-old Florence and one-year-old Enzo.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Jennifer said that she had the procedure in February 2018 after she gave birth to Enzo.

She said, ''My tubes are tied. I had a C-section and while the surgeon was down there – job done.''

She added, ''Lau really didn't want to have any more. Life is busy enough with two and with work.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Jennifer will be starting her own morning show on 2FM in June and the fact that she and Lau don't work ''steady jobs'' is also a reason they're happy with two kids.

She told the VIP Magazine, ''It's not an overnight success, it didn't just happen, I didn't just get plucked from RTÉ.''

She continued, ''I've been chipping away doing great TV shows, doing s***ty TV shows, getting rejected, getting ideas rejected.''

She's happy with her two gorgeous little ones and that's all that matters. 

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Triumph Monthly Cycle Supplement (€49.99) is a full menstrual cycle programme, one tablet and one sachet to be taken daily. Simply start the programme on day one of your period.

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Pink has gotten candid about the tragic miscarriage she suffered when she was just a teenager. 

The singer spoke to USA Today about the loss when she divulged that the inspiration behind some of her newest songs comes from her battles with anxiety and self-image. 

The 39-year-old revealed that the song, Happy, came from something personal that happened to her.

She said, ''Since I was 17, I’ve always hated my body / and it feels like my body’s hated me” were written about a miscarriage she suffered as a teen.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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She revealed, ''The reason I said [that] is because I’ve always had this very tomboy, very strong gymnast body, but actually at 17 I had a miscarriage. And I was going to have that child.''

She continued, ''But when that happens to a woman or a young girl, you feel like your body hates you and like your body is broken, and it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do.''

Pink went on to have a number of miscarriages and has poured the painful emotions into her songwriting.

She said, ''I think it’s important to talk about what you’re ashamed of, who you really are and the painful sh*t. I’ve always written that way.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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It has been therapy that has helped Pink to be so open in her music as it helps her to identify ''blind spots.''

She said, ''I believe in self-confrontation and just getting things out. What I love about therapy is that they’ll tell you what your blind spots are.''

She added, ''Although that’s uncomfortable and painful, it gives you something to work with.''

Pink is now mum to two gorgeous kids with her husband Carey Hart – seven-year-old Willow and two-year-old Jameson

We applaud her bravery in opening up about such a traumatic time in her life and we hope it helps other women who have also suffered miscarriages to feel less alone. 

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A gorgeous and powerfully vivid collection of essays written by Emilie Pine has won the An Post Book of the Year for 2018.

Notes to Self sees Pine writing on a variety of important moments in her life, including sexual assault, fertility problems, sexism in the academia sector, feminism, depression and addiction.

Published by Tramp Press, the book has been widely read around Ireland since it's publication, and has deeply resonated especially with women nationwide who relate to the stark and emotional work.

Emilie tweeted her joy at hearing the news, writing on Twitter: "Delighted and honoured to win Book of the Year 2018….Thank you to everyone who voted."

She also paid tribute to Tramp Press for commissioning the work, which tugged at the heartstrings of Irish women and men nationwide with it's brutal and visceral honesty.

The An Post Irish Book of the Year 2018 was handpicked by a public vote from a list of category winners which were recently announced at the An Post Irish Book Awards.

The esteemed prize boasts previous winners such as John Crowley's Atlas of the Irish Revolution, written with Donal Ó Drisceoil, Mike Murphy and Dr. John Borgonovo, Solar Bones by Mike McCormack, Academy Street by Mary Costello, The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan, Belinda McKeon's Solace, Staring at Lakes by Michael Harding and Asking For It by Louise O'Neill.

Chairperson of the An Post Irish Book Awards Maria Dickenson said; “Emilie Pine’s Notes to Self was one of the great stories in Irish bookselling in 2018 and I’m delighted that the voting public has chosen it as the An Post Book of the Year."

"The power and honesty of Emilie’s essays have captivated readers, and it’s truly gratifying both to see her talent rewarded and to see an Irish publisher like Tramp Press receive this well-deserved recognition," she continued.

Readers of the book couldn't put the engrossing work down. David McRedmond, CEO of An Post, commented on Emilie's wonderful win,

“2018 was a huge year for Irish writing and no book illustrates better why An Post is delighted to sponsor the Irish Book Awards: Emilie Pine’s book, a challenging read, is deeply human and Irish, emotional and clever. An Post thanks all the voters for engaging with the Awards in such large numbers.”

The An Post Irish Book Awards celebrate and promote Irish writing to a wide range of readers, bringing together a massive community who are passionate about writing. Readers, authors, booksellers, publishers and librarians unite to recognise Irish talent.

Congratulations to Emilie on her deserved achievement, we can't wait to consume her next piece of beautiful and fearless writing.

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Being a millennial in the time of skyrocketing housing prices and a questionable social obsession with avocados is difficult enough – and for many women, having children is a distant concept. 

However, many people start to feel the pressure to reproduce from their own parents. 

According to a new survey by BodyLogic, women aged 31 to 36 feel the most heat to have a child, with 62% reporting that their own parents want them to start a family. 

38% of women ages under 25 also get that expectation from their family – compared to 19% of men in the same age bracket.

The only age at which men were more likely to feel pressure to become parents was over 40.

The peak for both genders is the early 30s, with both men and women feeling the pressure in the aforementioned 31-36 age bracket. 

Fertility is a very personal aspect of our bodily health, and it differentiates person to person. 

If you're worried about your fertility, you're definitely not alone. The study found that 63% of women worry about their fertility.

Among millennials, 72% expressed a desire to have kids in the future. 

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Fertility is a very personal aspect of our bodily health, and it differentiates person to person. 

If you're worried about your fertility, you're definitely not alone. A Body Logic study found that 63% of women worry about their fertility.

Among millennials, 72% expressed a desire to have kids in the future. 

Women in the study were found to be substantially more likely to worry about being able to conceive than men.

More than 6 in 10 women were worried they might not be able to have kids; however, just 1 in 10 women between the ages of 15 and 44 actually have difficulty getting or staying pregnant.

'There's no 'right time' to have a baby,' Karen Morton, gynaecologist and obstetrician at Dr Morton's, told NetDoctor.

'This is a simple truth. In my antenatal clinic I see women of 25 having their fourth child and women of 40 having their first.' 

Social and economic trends have also contributed to a delay in women having their first child.

According to the Infertility Fears study, these trends have caused a steady rise in the average age of motherhood.

'2016 marked the first year on record in which women in their 30s had more babies than women in their 20s.'

Among all women surveyed, the most common cause for concern was not getting a regular period.

For men, only a third reported worrying about being unable to conceive. 

For male respondents, the most common worry was that they might not produce enough sperm to impregnate their partners.

 The average father of a newborn is now 31 years old.

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It has been a roller coaster week for Jessie J, that's for sure.

The singer first revealed devastating news during a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London where she told fans that she was told she couldn't have children.

She said on stage, ''So four years ago, I was told that I couldn't have children, and it's OK, I'm going to have children, trust me. When the doctor told me, my reaction was, 'Oh hell nooooooo.''

''I wanted to write this song for myself in my moment of pain and of sadness. But, also to give myself joy and give other people something that they can listen to in that moment when it gets really hard."

Since then, her fans have been showering her with love and support, and Jessie too to Insta to thank them for their encouragement and kind words. 

The 30-year-old took to Instagram stories to say that, "The love and support I have received has been overwhelming. I was told 4 years ago I won't be able to have children. I was also told I would need a hysterectomy immediately and to be put on medication."

Jessie also revealed that she "refused" the procedure.

She continued, "I'm off all medication through natural medicine and diet change. I haven't given up hope. I am doing all I can to make it happen the best way my body will allow."

Then the singer crafted a beautiful message about motherhood and her own plans for it.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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She wrote, "My journey is just one in millions that exist. I stand with you ladies. Strong in our emotional pain. To turn it into joy."

She continued, "I will be a mother. As will you. I believe in miracles. But if it doesn't happen naturally. Then that wasn't meant to be the journey. But a mother is within all of us. That inspires everyday. We are strong! Time will tell."

She concluded with, "Thank you for your kind words. Truly. It has been scary to be so vulnerable. But it's real.''

We are in awe of her sharing this painful but hopeful story.

So many women experience fertility issues and if we all stand together and talk candidly about them, we can help each other.

Fair play, Jessie. 

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We all know that shift work can have a negative impact on some ones social life, but the working lifestyle could also have an impact on male sexual health. 

Shift work and its associated sleep disorders may actually significantly impact a man's sexual and urologic health, researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have found. 

According to MedPage Today, non-standard shift workers were more likely to have lower urinary tract symptoms including prostate issues.

'Non-standard shifts have been shown to be associated with increased risk of hypogonadal symptoms and sexual dysfunction,' said Will Kirby, MD.

The issues associated with the shift work also included lower levels of sperm density, motile sperm count, and testosterone levels, which could lead to a lower sex drive and lead to difficulties having children. 

The study included 2,487 men who completed questionnaires that assessed their work schedules.

Of the shift-working men, 37 per cent had these issues, along with excessive daytime sleepiness and difficulty sleeping, the authors said in a presentation at the American Urological Association annual meeting.

'That was a surprising finding for us,' said Will Kirby, MD.

'We believed the total motile count would decrease with less sleep.'

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In 2016, American singer Halsey was diagnosed with endometriosis, a disorder in which the tissue that usually covers the inside of the uterus grows outside of it.

The condition is very painful, and can sometimes lead to infertility. With this in mind, the 23-year-old has chosen to freeze her eggs.

"Doing an ovarian reserve is important to me because I'm fortunate enough to have that as an option, but I need to be aggressive about protecting my fertility, about protecting myself," the New Jersey native shared on an episode of The Doctors yesterday.

"Reproductive illness is so frustrating because it can really make you feel like less of a woman," Halsey said.

 

Perth, you are a bunch of babes. @donslens

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"There's a lot of times when you're sitting at home and you just feel so terrible about yourself. You're sick, you don't feel sexy, you don't feel proud, you don't feel like there's much hope. And so taking these measures, so that hopefully I can have a bright future and achieve the things that I want to achieve by doing the ovarian reserve is really important."

Discovering she had endometriosis in the first place was 'bittersweet' for the 'Bad at Love' singer.

"It was the relief of knowing that I wasn't making it all up and I wasn't being sensitive and it wasn't all in my head," she explained, "It also kind of sucked to know that I was going to be living with this forever."

The chart-topping artist said that her demanding touring schedule intensified her symptoms and made 'the experience a little bit worse'.

A few months after her diagnosis, the songwriter discovered she was pregnant and suffered a miscarriage onstage. She discussed on The Doctors how the harrowing experience made her get 'aggressive' regarding her treatment.

"Before I could even really figure out what that meant to me and what that meant for my future, for my career, for my life for my relationship… The next thing I know I was onstage miscarrying in the middle of my concert," she recalled.

"The sensation of looking a couple hundred teenagers in the face while you're bleeding through your clothes and still having to do the show. Realising in that moment I never want to make that choice ever again of doing what I love or not being able to because of this disease. So I put my foot down and I got really aggressive about seeking treatment."

Halsey has now undergone surgery and received an IUD, which she said have made things better. 

Her story gives hope and comfort others living with endometriosis.

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These days most of us have grown so attached to our phones that being without them almost feels like missing a limb.

We even sometimes sleep near our phones, and it is so tempting to have your mobile with you for some late night Facebook scrolling.

However, this habit is unwise and even unhealthy, warns the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

The CDPH issued a statement about the dangers of the radio frequency (RF) energy that our smartphones emit. Some scientists are worried that RF energy damages human health.

"Although the science is still evolving, there are concerns among some public health professionals and members of the public regarding long-term, high use exposure to the energy emitted by cell phones," stated CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. 

Cell phone manufacturers seem aware of these concerns. As the Daily Mail notes, Apple includes a notice about RF exposure in iPhone's settings, though their RF emissions fall within the US's safety standards. 

Dr. Smith continued, "We know that simple steps, such as not keeping your phone in your pocket and moving it away from your bed at night, can help reduce exposure for both children and adults."

With mobile phone usage on the rise, the CDPH warns that long-term, frequent use of cell phones could lead to brain cancer, tumours of the acoustic nerve (necessary for hearing and maintaining balance) and salivary glands, lower sperm count, inactive sperm, headaches, and learning difficulties. 

However, they clarified that these links are not definitive. The CDPH notes that RF energy is 'not as powerful or as damaging to cells or DNA as some other kinds of electromagnetic radiation, such as X-rays or UV rays from the sun'.

If people want to reduce their RF energy exposure though, the CDPH recommend keeping your phone away from your head or body by using speakerphone or a headset when talking on the phone.

The CDPH urge people to sleep with their phones several feet away unless they are off or in airplane mode. 

They also advised that people send texts rather than speak on their mobiles, as you are more distant from your device then. Carrying your mobile in a bag rather than your bra or pocket also helps to reduce RF energy exposure.

You should distance yourself from your phone when it is downloading or streaming large files, when you are in fast-moving vehicles, or when you have a low cell phone signal (as your phone puts out more RF energy then to connect to a cell tower). 

As well, 'radiation shields' and devices claiming to reduce RF energy or radiation from your phone may actually increase your RF exposure, as your phone emits more RF energy to get past the barriers.

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New research from scientists at McGill University in Quebec, Canada shows that a large number of childless women tend to have been born to older mothers.

The data analysed came from 43,000 women. 

Strangely enough, the Human Reproduction-published study found fathers' ages had no significant effect on whether or not their daughters had children.

One important point to note, though, is the fact that scientists cannot prove if this correlation is due to whether these women struggled to conceive or if they consciously chose not to start a family.

"We had no knowledge of whether childlessness was intentional," the researchers noted, though they said that this link between childlessness and being born to an older mother was 'consistent'. 

However, the authors of the study still noted that 'evaluating the influence of maternal age at birth on offspring fertility is a public health priority'.

Peter Nagy, from the Reproductive Biology Associates in Atlanta, told the Guardian that age is something women planning to conceive should keep in mind, saying: "A mother’s reproductive age is important not only for herself but it will determine to a certain extent the chances of her daughter or daughters being infertile.

"When we are treating patients close to the age of 40, we are helping them get babies but, at the same time, these children will have a higher risk of becoming infertility patients."

The idea that a woman's fertility is related to her mother's health is not new.

Past studies have suggested that a woman's fertility can be predicted by the age at which her mother went through menopause. 

A 2012 study published in Human Reproduction found that levels of anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) and antral follicle count (AFC), both positive predictors for ovarian reserves, dropped faster in women whose mums experienced menopause earlier. 

This means that women whose mothers had menopause at an earlier age may struggle to conceive.

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