If a woman’s ovaries were an endless supply of fresh eggs, like a man’s scrotum is an endless supply of sperm, there would be a lot less anxiety around when to get pregnant. Unfortunately, there comes a point in a every woman’s life where pregnancy evolves from being that situation you’d be afraid to tell your mom about, to that thing your mom (and your biological clock) keeps reminding you about. The fact is there’s a deadline for pregnancy that doesn’t necessarily line up with the lives women these days are carving out for themselves.
…plan to have your last child by the time you turn 40. Beyond that, you’re rolling the dice, though they may still come up in your favor.
As the birth rate among millennials (across races) continues to decline, there’s likely to be an increase in anxiety among women in their thirties and beyond over whether or not there’s still time to have kids. There’s been lots of online conversation about the topic. In a compelling 2013 article for The Atlantic, Jean Twenge put many women at ease when she dispelled the widely-known stat that women are most fertile before the age of 35. In her piece, “How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?” she revealed that quite a bit of what we know about women’s fertility is based on antiquated data. To answer her titular question in a nutshell she says, “The bottom line for women, in my view, is: plan to have your last child by the time you turn 40. Beyond that, you’re rolling the dice, though they may still come up in your favor.” Dr. Beth Taylor, co-founder and co-director of Olive Fertility Centre, largely confirmed some of the assertions in Twenge’s essay, saying:
…there is not a sudden decline in fertility in the mid-thirties. There is actually a slow decline from the early twenties and by the mid-thirties the rate of decline increases. What this means is that many women will be able to conceive on their own into their late thirties, but more and more women each year will not be able to do so. To put it into numbers by total pregnancy rate after one year of trying, at age twenty 95% of couples can conceive on their own, at thirty 90% can, at thirty-five 80% can, at forty 60% can, at forty-five 10% can and by 50 essentially no one can.*
She further explains that, “conceiving does not mean a healthy pregnancy and baby. At age forty 30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and by forty-five that rises to 60%. Further, at forty 1 in 100 babies will have Down Syndrome which rises to 1 in 20 by age forty-five.”
The overall takeaway is that if you’re in your early thirties you likely have more time than you think, but you don’t have forever. And if you’re in your early forties, hope is not lost.
For some, statistics may not be enough to put their mind at ease. Having a bit of ‘insurance’ (literally and figuratively) might be what it takes, in which case freezing your eggs may be worth considering. Aidan Madigan-Curtis, Hardware operations product manager at Apple Inc. recently wrote a piece for the Huffington Post, detailing her Cryopreservation experience. She discusses the process, as well as the $10K+ price and how lots of other women would like to do the same thing but can’t because it’s costly. She, however, is fortunate to have employment-based health insurance that covers the cost of the procedure and medications. Keep in mind, however, that freezing your eggs doesn’t guarantee you a baby. In another Huffpo post, “10 Realities of Freezing Your Eggs: What Women Need to Know,” Dr. Angeline Beltsos of Fertility Centers of Illinois explains:
It’s important to know that freezing eggs does not guarantee a baby, but it offers a reliable insurance plan. Similar to your chances of getting pregnant when trying for 1-2 months, this provides a swing at the bat. When you are ready to use your frozen eggs to have a family, they must complete several steps prior to pregnancy. Eggs must survive the thaw, fertilize, implant and hopefully result in a baby. Along the way, any of these steps may not happen. Until eggs are used for treatment, physicians cannot know the outcome.
Dr. Beltsos offers some great advice throughout her post. Additionally, Dr.Taylor also offers some sound counsel:
Knowing if the women in your family had infertility and when they went through the menopause is helpful. Additionally, knowing your egg count (ovarian reserve) can also help – if your egg numbers are good then you are likely fertile for months to years. Your doctor can help you assess your ovarian reserve which is done with a simple blood test.
What You Can Do Now
So you’d be able to slightly silence the ticking of your biological clock by knowing that you likely have until your late thirties, and perhaps by also taking small immediate steps like, understanding your family’s history of fertility and assessing how many eggs you have in stock with your doctor. But there is one more thing that you can do to make you feel a little more at ease and in control of your uterus, and that is to practice mindfulness when it comes to the topic. Un-ruly working girl, Kahshanna Evans (publicist and wellness-practioner) offered this advice:
- It’s ok to worry, but don’t be dominated by festering, growing fears. Reclaim courage and make bold choices based on your desire to have a family.
- Name the steps and make progress so you are informed.
- Surrender to the possibility that you are not always the one driving.
- Pull your trusted friends closer and let them know what you need support on (this part isn’t great for chatty, distracted types who will forget the goal as soon as the first mimosa is passed; this is a task for dear and true friends who will reflect the beauty of the journey, and let you know they have your back, no matter what).
- Say yes, and marry yourself first. To be a mother one must often be selfless, so indulge now and celebrate all of the crafts, gifts, interests, hobbies now, before baby comes.
- Research fertility if you are worried, but don’t just believe the hype out there. Look at your family — chances are, if they are fertile, you’re good. The more we know about health, fertility, vitamins, hydration and our anatomical functions, the more we reclaim our power. Heck, I’ve actually sat in on a Doula yoga workshop just to learn!
- Talk to holistic AND conventional medical professionals you can trust — not just someone who will take your insurance card before calling next.
- Be healthy, and prepare your body, mind and soul so your spirit knows you are in the ‘yes’.
- Get the support you need, you deserve it.
Today’s woman may not have all the time in the world to push-off motherhood but she is in a position to approach the delay practically and mindfully.
2 thoughts on “Easing the Anxiety Around Female Fertility”
I had my son when I was 29. 4 months before my 30th birthday. I hope to get pregnant again not too long from now. For many reasons.
I think female fertility is such a touchy subject for people, but I really enjoyed this piece