By Giuliana Rancic
At age 33, my career was thriving, I had a wonderful partner, I was healthy – running six miles a day. I felt amazing. I felt strong. I certainly did not feel old. I still had plenty of time to have kids. Right?!
At age 33, I had no idea that hundreds of shots, multiple rounds of IVF, miscarriage and heartbreak would be in my future. I had no idea that I would become of one of the seven million Americans struggling to have a baby.
No one ever told me, “Oh, by the way, your eggs change when you reach a certain age.” I definitely had misconceptions about my fertility. In many ways, I felt blindsided.
Unfortunately, fertility is a topic that people don’t talk about – it makes them uncomfortable. There is still stigma and silence that is attached to fertility issues that is painful to the core. But the truth is, 1 in 8 couples in the U.S. are impacted by infertility, so it’s time we shift the cultural narrative by talking about it.
Now more than ever, this feels like the right time to normalize the conversation around fertility. Whether you’re a couple that has suffered a miscarriage, or you’re struggling to get pregnant and are seeking out fertility treatment, or you’re a single woman that’s frozen her eggs, these are all life experiences that we, as a society, should feel comfortable talking about.
So on that note, I want to kick off National Infertility Awareness week by having my friends at CCRM give you the facts. CCRM is where I was fortunate enough to have the IVF round that led to my wonderful six-year-old son, Duke. I am forever grateful to the incredible team I had at CCRM and love telling the world about them! Even if you’re undecided about having children someday, it’s important to educate yourself. Trust me, learning about fertility will help you in the long run.
What You Should Know About Your Fertility
(Courtesy of the fertility experts at CCRM)
1. The biological clock is real and it’s ticking faster than you think.
Most women are born with approximately 2 million eggs. By puberty, the total number of remaining eggs has already dropped to about 500,000 and the ovarian reserve will continue to decline with age. Women’s egg supply declines rapidly in the late 20s and 30s, and declines most notably after the age of 35. A healthy 40-year-old woman has a 5% chance of getting pregnant each menstrual cycle, compared to the 20% odds of a woman ten years younger.
In addition to the quantity, the quality of the eggs decreases with age, which increases your chance of miscarriage and the possibility of genetic abnormalities.
Women aren’t the only ones with a ticking biological clock. CCRM did a study on male fertility that found that sperm quality decreases around 40 years old.
2. Your choices matter.
Your lifestyle choices can have a significant impact on your fertility. For instance, if you’re a smoker, you may have a difficultly getting pregnant. Women who smoke are 60 percent more likely than nonsmokers to be infertile. Smoking has also been linked to early menopause, higher rates of miscarriage and sperm damage.
Alcohol can also affect fertility. An increase in ovulation disorders is associated with heavy drinking. For men, excessive alcohol consumption lowers testosterone levels and sperm quality and quantity in men. It can also reduce libido, and cause impotence.
3. If you’re not ready for kids, you have options.
You may want children, but perhaps you aren’t quite ready to have a baby. Egg freezing allows women to pursue other goals without giving up their dreams of parenthood. The best time to freeze your eggs is in your 20s and early 30s before egg quality and quantity significantly declines.
4. The Pill can’t make you infertile.
There’s a common misconception that long-term use of the Pill interferes with fertility. However, there’s no research or evidence that supports this belief. What research has found is that long-term use of the Pill may improve the symptoms of endometriosis, a condition that can cause abnormal menstrual bleeding and result in infertility. The Pill has been shown to reduce the incidence of ectopic pregnancy – when a fertilized egg is implanted outside the uterus, typically in one of the fallopian tubes.
5. Fertility assessments can offer valuable insight.
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant without success, (a year for women under 35, six months for women over 35), it’s time to see a fertility specialist. Men can have their semen analyzed to check for the number of sperm, the shape of sperm and the movement of the sperm, also known as “sperm motility.”
Female fertility can be assessed through blood tests to check levels of female hormones, thyroid hormones, prolactin, and male hormones. Through a transvaginal ultrasound, your doctor can assess the overall condition of your uterus and ovaries, the thickness of the lining of your uterus (the endometrium), and follicle development on the ovaries.
6. Your family’s medical history matters.
If you are a carrier of a chromosomal or genetic disorder, such as Muscular Dystrophy or the BRCA1/BRCA1 breast cancer gene, there’s a higher probability that your children will inherit the gene and will be at risk of developing the disease. There are dozens of genetic mutations (that can be identified through blood or saliva tests), which can lead to cancer and other diseases that can be passed on to future generations.
To prevent genetic diseases from being passed onto your children, you can do pre-implantation genetic diagnosis with IVF. To ensure the fastest path to the healthiest baby, CCRM offers genetic testing services.
It’s important you choose a fertility center that empowers you to make informed decisions and offers insight and treatment that will ultimately help ensure the best outcome possible. The journey can be complex, even scary but there are centers, like CCRM, who are dedicated to providing people who want a family with the very best chances to do so.
I hope this information from CCRM was helpful. I sure could have used it before I embarked on my own journey! On that note, if you are dealing with infertility, please know that you are not alone. In fact, so many people feel the same way you do right now and many before you have gone down the road you are going down. Some days are harder than others. There are tears…followed by not-so-great-news…followed by some more tears-but all it takes is one phone call with the joyful words you’ve been waiting for. Keep the faith and stay hopeful and strong and know, what’s meant to be, will be.
I am wishing you all the best in your journey!
All my love,