Recently, I've had a few conversations with different friends who are starting to think about having kids... and all of them have said the same thing: they aren't sure they're quite ready yet, but they're also worried that they may struggle like we have. And I get it... no one wants to have to go through fertility treatments - including IVF - if they can avoid it. It's not an easy process. And it's not something you can predict either. Wouldn't that have been nice to know beforehand?
But it got me thinking: there is a lot that I wish I would have known before we started thinking about starting our family. Because the fact of the matter is, your fertility (or infertility) and family planning is something you should be openly discussing. It should not be considered a taboo subject as it has in the past. So I want to help arm you with some information on family planning so you can be planning ahead, and decide what is best for you.
And, as a foreward... I am not here to scare you with this blog post, but rather, empower you with the information you need to make the best decisions to help positively impact your future.
On Average, It Takes Most People One Year to Conceive
So, I didn't know this when we first started trying. When we first decided to 'pull the goalie' back in 2013, I truly expected us to get pregnant right away. Isn't that what health class taught us? So every 25 days when 'aunt flow' vehemently reappeared, I was honestly devastated. And worried. Very worried. Why isn't it happening for us? EVERYONE around us was getting pregnant on basically the first 'try.' What's wrong with us?
What I didn't know is that on average (for those with no known fertility issues), it takes most people - 85% of them to be exact - one year to get pregnant.
I wish I had known this going into our family planning stages, because we might have planned things
a little a lot differently. We waited to 'pull the goalie' until we were absolutely 100% ready to have a baby tomorrow. And hey, you might be among that lucky few, but for most, it's going to take a bit longer. And if you've had the Depo-Provera shot, it can delay your conception additionally by up to ten months.
But no one tells you this.
I just wish I had known this going into it. Truth be told, we would have started trying sooner. And, I certainly would have felt a lot less discouraged by understanding that sometimes, for most people, these things take time. That there isn't a need to worry quite yet. Unless you're the one-in-eight.
One in Eight Couples and Individuals Struggle With Infertility
You read that right. And while a 12.5% chance of being that one-in-eight doesn't sound that huge, it certainly has a huge impact on your life, on your heart, on your soul (and on your wallet).
So if, after giving it some time, you think you might be a part of that one-in-eight, don't be afraid to seek a fertility specialist.
Don't know where to start? Ask around. Do your research. Look at success rates. Research facilities, doctors and their embryologists. I have talked about them before, but I'd encourage you to check out CCRM (Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine). They have locations in eleven major cities across the US and Canada and are always a great place to start.
CCRM is the industry's leading pioneer in fertility science, research and advancement, offering access to a national network of award-winning physicians and a full suite of fertility services (from IUI's to IVF). CCRM delivers some of the highest IVF success rates in the industry (it takes the average patient 1.2 IVF cycles to get pregnant versus the national average of 1.6). This is the type of clinic you should be looking for, and the success rates make it even better.
To be honest, I was terrified to meet with a fertility specialist in the beginning. It felt like by doing so, I was admitting that we had a problem. But that's not the case. In fact, I realized that by doing so, I was only that much closer to getting pregnant and holding our sweet daughter in our arms. In hindsight, I wish we had done it sooner. A lot sooner.
Age (Sadly) Matters
Whether we like it or not, age is more than just a number sometimes. It plays a pretty significant role in a woman's ability to get pregnant.
The older we get, the harder it is to conceive.
I think that's a pretty well-known fact. But what I didn't know was that by the age of 35, our chances of getting pregnant each cycle drops down to just 15%. That's because not only does your egg quantity decline, but so does your egg quality (upping your chances for miscarriage). And, if your partner is five or more years older than you are, and you're 35, your chances are even lower. So if you're over 35, doctors recommend seeking a fertility specialist if you've been purposefully 'trying' for over 6 months.
Sadly, there is no 'cure' for age-related infertility. Fertility treatments can certainly help your odds (thank goodness), but the odds for success are a lot different for someone at 27 than 37.
I honestly wish these facts weren't the case. But despite your future plans to wait, Mother Nature may have others. In fact, I read recently that 1-in-2 millennials are choosing to delay starting a family. And that is totally ok. You don't need to have kids until you're ready. You just need to educate yourself and learn the facts so that you can make the right decisions for your future.
So, armed with all of this information, what can you do?
Talk With Your Partner
Fertility (or infertility) doesn't have to be a taboo subject. If you think you may want to have kids together someday, I think it's important to talk about it openly.
A few questions to ask yourselves are:
When do we want to start our family?
How old do we want to be?
How many kids do we want?
Do we want to space them out by a couple of years?
How old would we be with our last child?
How would we like to become parents?
What if we struggle?
Is adoption an option?
What about fertility treatments?
How about egg or sperm donation? Or both?
If we plan on waiting, should we get our preliminary fertility screening done in advance just to have on hand and know for future family planning purposes?
Family planning doesn't have to be scary. It simply involves talking openly, asking yourselves some questions, and giving yourselves access to knowledge, services and contraceptives to help you make informed decisions.
Schedule a Preconception Appointment
Get a Pap smear if you haven't in a while. It can detect if there is anything that could interfere with your ability to get pregnant. You and your OB can also review your medical history, family history, current medications and overall lifestyle including alcohol and caffeine intake. This will give you the opportunity to address any concerns about trying to conceive, gain some facts, and maybe even have some preliminary testing done.
If you're serious about starting soon, it can't hurt to also hop on a prenatal with folic acid. It might even make your hair and nails grow faster.
Have Your Partner's Semen Analyzed
This one is actually really simple, and not that expensive. One of the first things we did was have Ben's semen analyzed. They test for sperm count (how many), motility (are they moving normally), morphology (are they a normal shape), volume (how much per ejaculation), and total motile count (the number of moving sperm). It's a quick appointment and you can go over the results with your OB.
Because it's hard to predict if you will be among the 1 in 8 who struggle to conceive (and there is no single all-encompassing fertility test for women), this can be an affordable, quick and easy way (literally the stroke of a hand) to give you a little extra insight on how things are looking for your partner (and thus, you).
If they do detect any issues, speak with your OB. But a few easy ways to boost male fertility can be as simple as exercising regularly, avoiding hot tubs and hits to the junk, taking Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Zinc supplements, limiting alcohol intake, limiting soy intake and getting enough sleep.
Knowledge is power.
Become Familiar with your Body
Speaking of knowledge... Observe your body and watch for fertility signs. This could be a good time to pick up some ovulation tests just to give you an idea of if and when it's typically happening for you. And maybe even track them or write them down.
You can also keep an eye on your periods: are they coming regularly and on average, how many days between each cycle? There are plenty of apps out there you can use to track ALL of these things as well.
I think it's just good to just be familiar with your body and have an idea of how (and when) things are working.
Try to Remain Physically, Emotionally and Mentally Healthy
I know, easier said than done when you're stressed about your fertility. And they say to eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, and limit your alcohol and caffeine intake when you're trying to conceive.
But truth be told, you don't need to place so much pressure on yourself to eat perfectly or say 'no' to all alcohol completely. My general rule is... if it's going to make you feel more relaxed and happy, then have that glass of wine. Don't say 'no' to all your happy hour invites because that smile on your face surrounded by all your girlfriends really can help.
And if having that morning cup of jo is a part of your routine and you'd be sad to give up, then have the dang cup of coffee and enjoy it, girl! You deserve it. Maybe just don't have three.
And do whatever exercise you enjoy. Don't feel like you need to go and join some crazy bootcamp, but just get out there, do what you can and get a sweat in doing an exercise you enjoy and feel good about.
All things in moderation. Except cigarettes and drugs. You should nix those completely. Obviously. Haha.
Seek a Fertility Specialist
As I mentioned above, if you've been purposefully trying for a year with no luck then seek a fertility specialist. However, If you happen to be over 35, then seek a fertility specialist after six months.
Get Your Levels Checked
If you decide to seek a fertility specialist, like CCRM, ask about getting your levels checked. It's a simple blood draw (usually on the third day of your period) that can check your levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which triggers your ovaries to prepare an egg for release each month and anti-mullerian hormone levels (AMH) which are thought to reflect the size of the remaining egg supply. With the same test they can also check your progesterone and testosterone levels, glucose and insulin, check your thyroid and look for other hormonal conditions, like inhibin B, in order to detect any problems that could cause missed or irregular ovulation.
Consider Freezing Your Eggs
This certainly isn't for everyone, but if you know you plan to wait until you're older to have kids, but know you definitely want them, one thing you could consider is freezing your eggs. I mean, it's not a fun process in all honesty, but it may just be worth it for you if you feel that best suits you and your needs.
The younger you are when you do this, the younger (better quality and quantity) your eggs are. This is why we chose to do back-to-back egg retrievals. Our second to last retrieval only yielded one egg. Say we implanted that egg, got pregnant, and five years down the line were ready for another. Well, by that point, me, and my eggs, would be five years older. And I'd have to go through the entire process over again. So we chose to fill our basket with as many eggs as we could so-to-speak so that when we're ready for the next, we don't have to repeat those steps.
Depending on your situation, it may be worth looking into.
Hopefully this article didn't scare you. My hope is that it simply helps to educate you so that you can be aware and make the right decisions for you and your future family planning.