I was wasting some time awaiting a work meeting by perusing Facebook. I came across a post that I’ve seen in some variant countless times before. A woman asking about her fertility prospects based on age. Usually these post are in various infertility-related groups, but this one was in a mom group. The poster was asking what her chances were to get pregnant again naturally. She conceived her first without troubles, but is now 35 and feels like her biological clock is ticking. This question prompted a cascade of responses along the lines of “I got pregnant with no problems at age [something over 35].”
Well isn’t that nice. All the fertile myrtles giving “don’t worry about it” advice.
Now I could have kept scrolling, but I just couldn’t resist. Because this irks me.
Obviously you’re going to get some pretty wildly different answers depending on the audience – you ask a mom group about getting pregnant and the answers will be rather different that what you find in an infertility group. But sampling bias aside, I’m bothered by the facts, or lack thereof, being doled out.
Because the thing is: age affects egg quality.
Regardless of how many celebrities over 40 are having babies. Regardless of how old your grandma was when she conceived your mom. Regardless of how healthy we are, how many miles we run, how clean we eat…fertility still declines with age.
Now that’s not to say that our lifestyles don’t matter. Our choices obviously impact our health and can work for or against us. But even the healthiest among us have aging ovaries, and this affects the quality of our eggs. On average, infertility begins a slow but significant decent around age 35 and take a steep hit around 40. Here’s another resource to help you be informed.
Yes, fertility declines with age. And we can’t escape it.
We do need to be educated about it. We need to be able to make informed decision about our fertility. We need to talk about the facts.
My niece is considering going to medical school. She’s in high school now and certainly things may change. But I was talking to my sister about it and brought up the fact that there’s a new trend in med school now where women are taking some fertility preservation means, like egg freezing. They’re doing this because med school, residency, and early careers tend to consume your most fertile years. My sister looked at me like I was talking crazy. She never considered the future of her daughter’s fertility, and has certainly never talked to her about it.
I’m no stranger to this concept, having spent my more fertile years as a doctoral student. While some of my infertility issues were not age related, age did become a major contributing factor and was the prime reason I endured so many rounds of IVF the second time around. I wish I would have known this way back when. Maybe I would have gone to the reproductive endocrinologist sooner rather than later. But hindsight, you know.
So there I was, staring at the computer screen, scrolling through all the “don’t worry about it” responses to that woman’s post. And I had to do it. I had to share the data. Not to scare or worry, but to inform. And so, among a long string of Polly Anna responses, was my truthful response. Maybe someone noticed.