Thankfully, we live in a world where (most) people live longer and where most diseases can be treated. We live in a world where technology has made life not only more convenient but longer and sometimes healthier. We live in a world where women are independent, can chose to marry or not, can chose to follow careers or not, and can chose to have children or not.
We also live in a time of medical miracles. We have amazing technologies - in vitro fertilization, for example - that allow couples to have children who just fifty years ago would have had no hope.
And yet, we have not conquered the biological clock. Ladies, do not ignore your biological clocks. Men, do not ignore your partner's biological clocks. Yes, I believe this isn't all on the women's shoulders. It's sometimes the men who say they want to wait a little longer before starting a family.
(Men also have a biological clock, but it is more subtle and less likely to be unbeatable.)
But I'm So Healthy!
If you're reading and thinking, "Oh, you're talking to those with unhealthy habits," I assure you that I'm talking to you, too. There are unhealthy habits that will speed the aging process, like smoking. But even if you lived the healthiest diet possible, if you do just the right amount of exercise, avoid all the toxins in this world, live your life in whatever perfect way possible, you can't stop your biological clock. Your body may not look old, but your ovaries are aging.
Is Career the Issue?
Oh, I see you, too. The reader who says, "Well, if women would just stop being so career obsessed, they'd have no issues starting a family on time!" Actually, according to a recent study, career isn't the most common factor in deciding to have a family. Less than 30% said career was a part of their decision. Waiting for a strong steady relationship is frequent reason why women wait. They just haven't found the future father of their imagined children. Other reasons include not yet "feeling in control of one's life" or not "feeling ready to parent."
But Doesn't Everyone Know about Their Biological Clock?
In fact, a great number of people believe infertility related to aging is easily conquered. After all, don't we have IVF? Aren't there celebrities conceiving in their late 30s, even their late 40s? Wasn't there some woman who conceived in her 60s or 70s?
The truth is that IVF doesn't solve age-related infertility. While increasing numbers of women are attempting IVF in their 40s, the success rates have not increased. The number of IVF procedures on women over 40 has increased 40% between 2003 and 2009, but the success rates remain the same - less than 9%.
What About Egg Donation?
For most couples over 40, egg donation gives them the best chance for success. But egg donation is extremely expensive, anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 per cycle. That's outside of many people's budgets. It's also not always what a couple wants. They wanted a baby using their own eggs, but it's too late and not possible.
Can't I Just Freeze My Eggs?
A new possibility to beating the biological clock is freezing your own eggs when you're young. However, this is a relatively new technology. People are doing it, but there are still no guarantees.
It's also an expensive, invasive procedure for a "maybe", as in "Maybe I won't meet someone on time. And maybe I'll be able to have a baby with these eggs." It is entirely possibly to freeze lots of eggs and still not succeed.
Egg freezing is a good option for some women. But it's no cure, and it's not easy.
So This Is Serious! How Do We Tell People About This?
This is where things get very complicated and political. How do you tell people that their biological clocks are ticking and they should honestly consider hurrying up?
Not in health classes, where teens are taught to avoid sex and baby making for as many years as possible. Somehow I don't see the schools being willing to discuss ticking biological clocks with kids who they are afraid will go out and try to beat their clocks tomorrow.
Not at the doctor's office, where physicians are embarrassed or hesitant to bring the topic up. They don't want to be seen as pushy or "condensing."
Not from your mother or mother-in-law's mouth. Wow, would that not go over well.
Maybe a public service message campaign, though there is a good possibility it'll be criticized for either putting too much pressure on women, or somehow being "not pro feminist", or whatever.
Maybe the best way to spread the message is woman to woman, friend to friend. Were you taken by surprise by your biological clock? Do you wish someone would have told you earlier? From whom would you have taken in that information? How do you think the message should be spread?
Please feel free to share your thoughts - whether you're facing age-related infertility or not - in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you!
More on infertility and age:
- Getting Pregnant After 35
- What Are Your Chances for Getting Pregnant After 40?
- Am I Too Young to Be Infertile?
- Male Fertility and Age
- Over 40 Mother Shares Her Egg Donation IVF Story
- Quiz: Do You Know Your Infertility Myths?
This post is in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), which this year is from April 22-28th. Every year, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association hosts a blog challenge on a chosen theme in honor of NIAW. This year's theme is "Don't Ignore..." Want to join in with your blog? Check out the RESOLVE website.