Tweet"Have your babies while you're young" was the best advice I ever got.
Women could save themselves a lot of grief if they thought of the baby deadline as age 35 instead of age 40.
Maybe you think you can beat the clock by having your eggs frozen.
"Have your babies while you're young" was the best advice I ever got. This came from a thirty-nine year old gynecologist who had just had her third child. She explained how much harder it was to get pregnant, be pregnant and go through childbirth compared to her experiences with the babies born when she was in her early thirties. But at least she was able to have a healthy baby. Many women trying after age thirty-five won't be so lucky.
Girls are born with all the eggs they will ever have, and by puberty over half are gone. The rest continue to deteriorate, the process accelerating after age thirty. We are not like men who can churn out millions of new sperm every day. But the quantity isn't the problem, it's the quality. By age 40 many of these eggs are just defective. That's why we continue to menstruate between age 40 and 50 without getting pregnant. The genetic birth defects also increase after age 35 for this reason, as does the miscarriage rate.
Women could save themselves a lot of grief if they thought of the baby deadline as age 35 instead of age 40, or worse age 45. Yes many women do have children at age 40 or 42 but we don't know how long they tried. And you do not know if you would be one of the lucky ones if you start trying later in life. Everyone has a different biological clock and many women become subfertile or infertile before they are 40. Plus it takes longer to conceive and this limits the number of children one can have if you get started later. Many women end up having one kid when they would like two, or two when they would have liked three...they discover children are fantastic.
But perhaps you think reproductive technology will save you. Yes this technology does exist to serve infertile couples, gay men, and most of all old ladies. Age 40 is old as far as your body's reproduction is concerned. But even if you go through the risks, hormone shots and procedures the chances are you will not get pregnant and stay pregnant if you are over forty. The success rate is less than 20%. Those eggs are not getting any younger. The IVF clinics will suggest you use donor eggs, and this means that baby will not be genetically related to you. Maybe your uterus cannot support a pregnancy. The placenta of a 40 year old women is not the same of the placenta in a 30 year old woman. Well one can hire a surrogate (who is someone renting her body for money), although this is illegal in many countries including most of Europe. But you can fly to India, buy an egg, rent a womb, find some sperm donor and maybe it will all work out after great expense and time. Wouldn't it be easier just to have a baby earlier, naturally?
Maybe you think you can beat the clock by having your eggs frozen. This makes sense if you need cancer treatment but for a healthy woman it means a unnecessary complicated procedure to get the eggs in the first place. And then what? When you decide to defrost them in twenty years they may not be viable. Plus you cannot stick them back in like a vaginal suppository. This means hormones, IVF, baby-in-a-test-tube technology. Most pregnant women I know want the most natural-bio-organic-drug free pregnancy possible. And it may not work. The science is very new. Implantation rates for embryos made from frozen eggs is less than 20% even for the women who have eggs frozen when they are young. But go ahead and try. If you work for Apple or Facebook they will even pay for it, so you can keep working through your fertile years.
"But I am too busy!" you say. I have a trip planned, my job is stressful, we are going to move, my parents are sick, etc. Which brings me to the second best advice I got, this from my mother: "There is never a good time to have a baby." Yes, babies bring chaos. They disrupt your plans. You have to change your life for them. But the joy they bring outweighs it all. The world does not have middle-aged women complaining they should not have had children. But it has many women sorry that they missed the chance. If this is something you want in life why wait and gamble with your happiness? Have your babies while you are still young!
Helena Conrad is a medical professional and entrepreneur with a background in physics, radiology and ...politics. We've pretty much all got science backgrounds, but Helena's the heavy hitter in that department, as well as having a lot of kids. She generally splits her time between Germany and California.
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