Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her and was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has served as Illume Fertility's dedicated Patient Advocate and Strategic Content Lead for many years and is the founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support patients through gentle movement and meditation. Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.
Millennials became the “largest living generation” in 2015, outpacing the Baby Boomers, as reported by Healthline. This information was published in 2017 and was about, of all things, the state of fertility, infertility, babymaking, and delayed parenthood.
It turns out, according to Healthline’s State of Fertility Report 2017, if you were born between 1982 and 1999, how you see the world and how you function in the world is vastly different than how your parents did, who were typically baby boomers. You don’t stay at jobs as long, move more frequently, often live at home after college (necessary for paying off college debt), and marriage and parenthood are delayed.
The Big IF- Fertility and Infertility
Given the 2008 financial debacle and the slowish recovery of the economy, delaying parenthood can make perfect sense, if, and it’s a big IF, if everyone understands the risks involved in putting off baby making.
Making educated and informed decisions isn’t something that’s gone out of style or out with the previous generation. Neither has that feeling in the pit of your stomach- the one when you realize that an opportunity is lost that didn’t have to be, if you had just known…
What? What Do the Millennials Need to Know?
They need to know that as they become more and better prepared to become parents (or more certain that they want to become parents at all) they are likely leaving their most fertile years behind them. This is certainly true if you are a woman or your biological contribution to a child is an ovum (egg).
There is a sweet spot of fertility, that sits right in between when women are most fertile (early 20s and even younger) and when fertility precipitously drops (35). In fact, that’s about 15 years of a sweet spot. For those certain that they do want children, it’s the time that the biological clock is most kind.
Does that mean millennials should opt in for something that they’re not prepared for, desire or are even sure they ever want, something as forever life-altering as parenting?
Well, no. In fact, absolutely not. What it does mean though, is be informed- understand the choices you’re making even if and when you’re making a non-choice. Non-choices are made in those moments where you put off thinking about something until some future date, yet to be determined or even circled on the calendar.
Switching gears a bit - if someone's dream is to purchase a house, lack of awareness of how home buying works can affect your mortgage rate in a positive or negative way. It can mean the difference between savings and a lower monthly payment, paying PMI (private mortgage insurance), or being able to afford a home at all. Evaluating home ownership reality might mean deciding that being tied down to a payment isn’t for you and spending more freely on life experiences is a better option.
Taking this back to the fertility conversation, it’s not always money or even preparedness that makes one decide that parenthood isn’t for them right now. Sometimes it’s lack of a partner. Sometimes there are other goals that take precedent. Sometimes it’s just not the right time yet.
Factor in all of that. Being proactive means choosing to be educated and aware of your choices.
The Upward Trend of Successful Fertility Treatment
Has the state of fertility changed, in any substantial way? Do our biological clocks operate differently?
Well, yes. And no.
No, in that women are still born with all the eggs that they will have throughout their lifetime. Male factor problems still account for up to 30% of infertility, but as new sperm is formed every ninety days, there are specific steps to take to have healthier sperm.
Yes, in that there are new and better ways to coax out viable eggs that result in healthy pregnancies and babies and better methods for improving sperm quality.
Yes, also, as there are some very valid options available now that weren’t around before, that can more safely delay and still retain parenthood as a choice.
AMH testing- although there is data out there disparaging the testing of non-fertility patients, it can be successfully argued that this test is still the best indicator of any testing that exists of ovarian reserve.
Constantly improving fertility treatment protocols that greatly improve the chance of a successful pregnancy and parenthood- IUI and IVF, being 2 prime examples
One age related cause of infertility, diminished ovarian reserve, is more frequently able to be treated by a board certified reproductive endocrinologist (fertility specialist) than it ever has been in the past
Testing has expanded to include checking endometrial receptivity, genetic screening and embryo pre-diagnostic screening
Third party reproductive choices include the ability to work with egg or sperm donors and gestational surrogates when necessary.
Egg Freezing- a Game Changer
For women, there is one option that truly changes the conversation about delayed parenthood- egg freezing. While egg freezing isn’t covered by insurance, is not inexpensive and it’s not a guarantee, it’s THE most viable option for delaying motherhood and still retaining a biological connection to a future child.
Here’s the question that we posed to Valerie Landis, Founder of Eggsperience, (also quoted in the Healthline Fertility Report), “while egg freezing is an option, if people are not having babies younger partly because of money, how does that address the egg freezing dilemma given the expenses involved with freezing eggs?”
Her short answer, (click here for her longer answer)- “Simple. Women cannot afford NOT to take advantage of egg freezing when they are younger. Think of egg freezing like preventive medicine. The costs to freeze one’s eggs in their early 30s to late 20s is far less then it would take to collect the same yield or amount of eggs in one’s later years or into their 40s.”
Consider the reality of the incidence of infertility as women age and that makes Ms. Landis’s comments even more compelling.
Healthline survey reveals 70% of 18-34-year olds THINK they know the impact of a women’s age on fertility, but do they? Their conclusions showed that 69% responded incorrectly to how many women over the age of 35 struggle with infertility (correct answer 40-50%), while 89% were incorrect with how many women over the age of 40 struggled (85-90%).
A Family When You’re Ready
This barely scratches the surface of this conversation, but it’s a good, solid beginning. Building from the foundation up- understanding fertility and how it works.
Having realistic expectations about parenthood, fertility and baby making possibilities is the best way to ensure that when you’re ready, if you’re ready, you can build your family.
Healthline’s State of Fertility 2018 report is coming soon, updating and reporting the newest information and data on fertility, infertility and family planning. When it comes out, count on us for sifting through and commenting on the most relevant aspects about fertility.
Valerie Landis has been working in women’s health field for the last decade. Her medical career experiences and passion for helping women merged when she founded her educational website eggsperience.com. She focuses on guiding women of any reproductive age through the complex and challenging paths of fertility decisions. Valerie compliments the Eggsperience website with a fertility podcast called Eggology Club that she hosts to continue to change the conversation around cryopreservation and egg freezing.
Valerie provides non-bias and fact-based information to empower women to feel inspired, brave, and act progressively to take control of their future families and protect their fertility. She speaks openly about her own personal egg freezing experience and family planning decisions along with highlighting a collection of first-hand accounts from other women’s fertility journeys.