The Case For Fertility Awareness

I wish that the egg freezing technology we have now existed when I was in my 20s. It is really the only way for women to preserve their fertility when they are young and not yet interested in starting a family. As a physician in New York City I see new patients every day who put off childbearing until their late 30s and early 40s. They all tell me the same thing – they wish they had known how difficult getting pregnant would become as they neared this stage of life, and they wish they could go back in time and freeze their eggs.

Well, unfortunately, the egg freezing technology that we have today did not exist 15-20 years ago – so we can’t go back and change that fact for women who are now facing age-related fertility challenges.

But what I find perhaps more frustrating in retrospect is the lack of emphasis on awareness, information and education about a woman’s fertility that could have helped so many of these women plan ahead. They needed to know how difficult conceiving can be and how dynamic the ovaries are.

Why are women not taught, along with how to prevent pregnancy, that the opportunity and ability to conceive does not remain steady as we age? In reality, there is a spectrum of change taking place throughout a woman’s reproductive life. It’s not as though everything remains the same until menopause and then a switch just shuts off. There are active changes taking place from the time a young girl is born. To be very honest, girls lose eggs before they are even born. The most exponential changes (on average) are in the 37 – 39 age range. Women need to know about this before trying to conceive for the first time in their 3rd and 4th decades of life.

We need to educate young women now that egg freezing will provide options in the future. Perhaps, they’ll never need to use eggs that they freeze – many women are fortunate to not have problems conceiving. But, don’t we take out insurance policies on less important things? Car insurance, travel insurance, renters insurance? Why are more young women not freezing eggs as an insurance policy for their fertility??? Is it really all about the money? It is expensive and often not covered by commercial health care, but I still believe the lack of knowledge about female reproductive health and pregnancy is more of an issue. My daughter is only a toddler, and who knows what advances in female fertility preservation we’ll have by the time she’s in college, but I know I will certainly encourage her to do what she can to ensure she has options to start a family when she’s ready.

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