26 is the age my teenage self, thought I’d be married and pregnant. My generation of women admired their parents who viewed pregnancy natural at 23. Then we grew up and watched Friends and Sex and the City, realising it was okay to not have our careers and family in order before thirty. I’m 26 and know little about female fertility; other than my clock is ticking…
When should you worry about female fertility?
Many women in their twenties feel confused about female fertility, because the press publishes mixed messages. For every Hall Berry conceiving in their 40’s, there’s a career driven woman regrettably sharing how she missed her chances. Rachel Moss wrote an article for The Huffington Post last week, focusing on contradictory information leading to “unnecessary worry”.
The piece shared statistics from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists stating 76% of women don’t feel “sure if fertility information is impartial and unbiased.” Another finding from their data reveals 62% of women feel “overwhelmed” by the countless advice available. There’s a generational shift with life priorities. I recently explored why millennials are not marrying and changing opinions on the institution.
According to the NHS, “the biggest decrease in fertility begins during the mid-30s”. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have shared age statistics: “healthy couples in their 20s and early 30s, around 1 in 4 women will get pregnant in any single menstrual cycle.” However, for women in their forties, figures adapt to 1 in 10.
Is it worth freezing your eggs?
New research reports nearly half of young women consider egg freezing. Entertainers such as Rita Ora, Sofia Vergara and Olivia Munn have openly spoken about opting for the procedure. Women’s Health Magazine reported Olivia talking on Anna Faris’ podcast and saying “I think that every girl should do it… you don’t have to worry about it”.
Advice like this is dangerous to follow, as egg freezing is not that simple. It’s unfortunately not a bankable solution considering the actual evidence. The Telegraph explained “a study found egg freezing brings no help to 90 per cent of women who opt for it” partly due to leaving it too late (35 upwards).
While egg freezing can potentially offer options, it’s worthwhile talking to a doctor first and being clued up on statistics. Grazia pulled research from the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority, informing the possibility a woman conceives with her frozen eggs is “18% per cycle”. IVF has a higher chance at 30%.
What can you do to improve fertility?
I’m currently not in a situation where conceiving is a viable decision. Both from a relationship standpoint and from a life path perspective. I’m still thinking about travelling and reaching career heights – and enjoying my young freedom before I panic about being old. That’s another fear with female fertility. Can you really have it all, or should you complete as many personal goals possible before welcoming a baby?
While my situation at present is not ideal for the sound of pitter patter, I do want to understand my choices. Equally, I want to try to help my odds now, to avoid additional stress later. There is some good news for older women – in 2015, Net Doctor reported more women gave birth in their 40’s than women in their 20’s.
Wild Nutrition have produced an editorial on “lifestyle tips to optimise fertility”. The detailed guide mentions environmental factors such as “exposure to toxins from pesticides and plastics” impacting “hormone balance and sperm production.”
When are you really ready?
Overall, it appears female fertility is similar to individual health. It benefits to live healthy, but there’s never an official guarantee. IVF and egg freezing may act as a lifeline, though again with no certainty. And while couples do go on to give birth healthily beyond their twenties, the balance begins to tip unevenly when women reach their late thirties.
We live in a time where pay-gaps and female sexual assault dominate headlines, yet also a period in history where women receive applause for earning their own success. It’s become harder to purchase a first home as well as juggle a career with children. Considering I don’t have kids, it’s difficult to answer this question.
Some friends believe you feel an instinct. Maybe you set guidelines on income and stability – when they’re complete – you’re ready. Having come close to pregnancy last year, I’ve began thinking about babies and timing.
How much does society pressure women on female fertility, and on the perfect age? Why not read: Healthy Young Women Can’t Have it All