Too Young to be Infertile? What You Need to Know

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Pressing snooze on your biological clock could not only cost you financially, but emotionally as well.

More than half of university-aged young adults believe that fertility begins to decline at a later age than it really does, according to a recent U.K study.

The Globe and Mail reported results from the journal, Human Reproduction, citing  that 67 per cent of women and 81 per cent of men think that female fertility greatly declines after age 40; when in reality there is a marked decrease from age 35.

A 2010 Canadian study showed that women on the other side of the pond believed the same thing.

Many from the U.K study believed that the drop zone is later still, with 31 per cent of women and 52 per cent of men thinking that the chances of natural conception don’t decrease until after age 44.

The study also reveals that success rates for assisted-reproductive technologies are being vastly overestimated – with reproductive specialists being expected to perform miracles.

While researchers can’t put their finger on the reason for this misinformation, experts speculate that it’s because doctors aren’t being proactive by discussing their patient’s fertility until it becomes a concern.

In addition, it is believed that celebrity stories, such as that of Kelly Preston, who gave birth to her son when she was 48, are skewing the perception that healthy fertility is the norm at any age.

I was only in my 20s when I was diagnosed with secondary infertility. After many rounds of Clomid (medication used to induce ovulation) and a miscarriage, two years later I was finally pregnant. And although I am happy to have a healthy second child, I don’t forget everything my family went through in the process. Had I been prepared for this possibility, I might have handled it a lot better.

Similarly, those without accurate information about their fertility face the possibility of a long, expensive and emotional journey on the road to having children – that is if they even want them.

It’s not fair to assume every woman wishes to bear offspring. And some still may wish to invest in their independence and focus on their career before focusing on having children. Different strokes for different folks, and all that. Let’s address a woman’s right to choose. After all, part of what the feminist movement was about was taking control of our fertility. Thank you birth control pill!

But to truly take control we must have full knowledge of our body’s capabilities and limitations. Information about the realities of female fertility needs to be readily, and widely, available. It should be discussed in sex-education classes and brought up by family physicians in young adulthood. The question needs to be raised early. “Might you ever want to have children?” If the answer is yes, then “Here are the things you need to know.”

However, should the fear that an aging woman’s ovaries might shrivel up, leaving her barren, pressure her to start considering having children she may never want?

It’s the archaic notion that a woman isn’t living up to her God-given purpose if she isn’t procreating that causes so much stress. Should she have to compromise her current desires in order to live up to society’s expectations further down the road?

These are the things a woman must deal with simply because she was born with a uterus. Pressure is coming in from all sides – “Have a baby in your twenties or risk not having them at all,” and “You better hold off on having a baby until you establish a career because old women in the workplace aren’t desirable.” Then you have the pressure to remain childless because you might use too many sick days thanks to your little snot-nosed, germ factories. You risk demotion, and possibly termination, leaving you with the financial hardship you were trying to avoid to begin with. It’s so often about the money, but that isn’t the only cost.

Putting the price of fertility treatments aside, (for example, just one round of IVF can cost as much as $15,000) the true price a woman pays comes in the form of emotional turmoil. While family doctors have some psychological training, it doesn’t replace a good old fashioned therapist. Yes, women should be offered a fertility consultation by their doctors to discuss their biology once they reach the prime age of fertility.  But the most important service they should be offered is a referral to a therapist who specializes in working with women who are considering when, and if, to have children.

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