Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Infertility Myth Busted: "Slow down, you have plenty of time to have kids!"

Although infertility has no age boundary, the older a couple gets, the higher the incidence of miscarriages or difficulty in conceiving. According to RESOLVE among the risk factors to conception:
A woman's age can affect her fertility. By age 40, a woman's chance of pregnancy has decreased from 90 percent to 67 percent. By age 45, the chance of becoming pregnant declines to 15 percent. Infertility in older women may be due to a higher risk of chromosomal abnormalities that occur in the eggs as they age. Older women are also more likely to have health problems that may interfere with fertility. The risk of miscarriage also is much greater for older women. 
I don't know how many times  when sharing my fertility hopes and despair that a well-meaning friend or co-worker would pipe up with "You're young, you have plenty of time!" Such a comment stings in several ways.
  • It instantly invalidates your struggles and fears. A comment like this says "You have no right to worry and your pain is unimportant."
  • It also sends the message that the speaker is somehow bored or impatient with you and hasn't the time to comfort you about your concerns.
  • One of the most frustrating aspects of this comment is it's complete ignorance to actual risk factors to fertility. 
The truth is, for most couples over the age of 35 the risk of infertility is heightened. Also, the actual likelihood of achieving conception from intercourse during the fertile period (3-5 days around ovulation) is only around 20-25% for healthy couples.
A couple ages 29-33 with a normal functioning reproductive system has only a 20-25% chance of conceiving in any given month (National Women’s Health Resource Center). After six months of trying, 60% of couples will conceive without medical assistance. (Infertility As A Covered Benefit, William M. Mercer, 1997) 
 So, it's incredibly frustrating and demoralizing when someone waves off your infertility concerns with a "You're young, this will pass!" It makes me want to scream and tear out my hair. I know the proverbial "biological clock" is over-used, but it has basis in fact! I say this not to be hopeless, but realistic, that each woman's fertility dwindles with each cycle. That's one less egg, one less opportunity to achieve pregnancy and one more step towards overall potential medical conditions that can affect your chances.

I guess the type of support I want from a friend when I am despairing over my last BFN and whether or not I'll EVER achieve a BFP is "I know it's so tough, but you'll get there!" I think that support is more welcome than advice, especially poor advice.

To get the low-down on Infertility, visit RESOLVE's Infertility 101 Check out RESOLVE for more information on National Infertility Awareness Week® (NIAW) and how you can get involved in your community!


Janessa said...

Great myth busting in both posts!

Claire said...

I agree there is nothing more frustrating than when you are constantly told that you are young and have plenty of time! I just wish people could be more supportive in understanding the issue rather than shrugging it offlike that!

Melissa said...

Thank you Claire and Janessa. Claire, that's exactly how I feel. It's more frustrating when you get told this after 30. I think to myself, when exactly do I "run out of time" to achieve pregnancy? Plus, there has to be a transition period. If I suddenly decide to start when time starts to run out then I get the opposite myth....You waited to long to have kids. ::eyeroll::

Amanda said...

I agree with your whole post, Melissa and it is infuriating when you think about it. Invalidating an infertile's struggles with ignorant comments only makes matters worse. Plus, it's a bit unsettling when you think about the population of women over 30 who are childless. I bet we are the minority...

Melissa said...

Amanda, thank you for your comment. I think you are correct that the over 30 and childless population is much less, especially when you consider the amount of teen pregnancies. Still, more and more people are waiting to get married in or after their mid-twenties and starting families (or trying) around the early to mid-30's. So I think it may be a growing population.

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Motherhood Wanted approved!