According to our Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 7.5 million American women between the ages of 15-44 diagnosed with infertility in 2016. Of these individuals who are biologically unable to get pregnant or carry a baby to full term, 6.9 million have attempted to conceive by means of infertility treatments or services.
While most intended parents anticipate that the outcome of their conscious decision to procreate will be a child, there are a more than a few reasons why today’s families are struggling with reaching this milestone.
Contributing Factors to Infertility
Several elements are interfering with higher rates of fertility these days; sexually transmitted diseases, postponed pregnancies, advanced maternal age, unhealthy effects of stress and obesity, and environmental conditions.
The following two factors seem to affect infertility rates more frequently. While in some cases these are preventable with lifestyle changes, the reality of today’s priorities for women have continued to inspire advances in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) as well as stronger support systems.
- The Timeline of Female Fertility
Women have the highest rate of fertility in their 20s, which decreases by 50% at the age of 35! By the time they are 45 years old, females retain only a 1% probability of natural conception.
The average woman today gives birth to their first child at 25 years old, with 20% of females choosing to wait until the age of 35 to start a family. There’s an obvious disconnect between reality and the conviction that when they decide to quit any effort at birth control, pregnancy will immediately ensue.
- The Impact of Delayed Childbearing
A substantial shift has taken place in the United States since the early 1980s. Today, women own 40% of U.S. businesses and 48% of our working women are bringing in at least 50% the income for their families.
Understandably, women are choosing careers and education over marriage and families – however as they age, so do their ovaries. Putting motherhood and enduring relationships on the backburner has its price; essentially that of requiring alternative paths to parenthood.
Alternative Paths to Parenthood
IVF (In vitro fertilization) is a necessary part of the following options, as it involves the process of using eggs to create an embryo in the laboratory, which are later implanted into the uterus of either the natural mother or the gestational (not biologically related) surrogate.
Egg Banking – Human oocyte (egg) cryopreservation (freezing) is an option for young women up to 38 years old. It effectively ‘stops the clock’ and allows them to put their fertility on hold. When the time is right, their eggs would be thawed, fertilized and the embryos then placed in the uterus.
Egg Donation – Eggs are retrieved from a donor – preferably between 21 to 32 years old. As the ‘age of the egg’ is strongly linked to a successful pregnancy, success rates give real credence to egg donorship.
Surrogacy – Widely used to overcome the circumstances of infertility, this method continues to be more acceptable as additional states have allowed singles (as well as couples) to establish parentage at birth or shortly thereafter.
The Financial Imperative
Infertility treatment is costly, and unfortunately for most of us is not completely covered by an insurance provider. If possible, the best course of action is to carefully review your benefits and payment options before you begin treatment. Discuss it with your partner and choose a financial plan you can both agree upon.
It’s best to count on having multiple cycles. Why? Well, you may experience a failed cycle, or decide to have more than one baby. Speak with your physician and your therapist, making certain you understand the odds of the treatment choices available for your specific diagnosis. Set milestones for when to consider a new approach to treatment, and when to stop the process altogether.
The Pros and Cons of ART
An infertility diagnosis may be devastating and demoralizing for a woman. They will often believe this ‘affliction’ makes them less than adequate, which can have a real psychological impact on both their self-esteem and their partnership. Treatment is expensive, and intrusive – not to mention overwhelming at times, and the procedure can take quite a toll on your emotional, physical and financial state.
That said, remember that ‘the pathway to parenthood is not always linear.’ When you are cognizant of your available choices; have put together a solid action plan anticipating the various possible outcomes; and have laid a supportive foundation to meet the emotional, physical and financial challenges – it will maximize the possibilities for success and minimize your budgetary concerns.