I read this yesterday on NYtimes.com. It is a fascinating article that I think many women between the ages of 25-35 could benefit from. Actually, I take that back…I KNOW they would benefit from! The simple question, “Do you plan to have a family” from your OBGYN or “I plan to have a family” statement coming from young women, could open up conversation and communication about future plans and the timeline. With today’s technology, a few simple bloodtests will tell both the OB and the young woman if her time line matches up with her eggs timeline. Unfortunately, sometimes they do not, and more often than not, young women find this out way too late. Today, a woman will usually only find this out after they have already been trying for children…sometimes for a year, sometimes 2 years, maybe even longer (in our case, 3 years). And the way they often find out is by seeing a specialist. The first thing a specialist will do is order and run a bunch of tests on both the woman and the man to find out what their fertility potential is. Can you imagine if this was done routinely every year with your OBGYN? If this proactive approach was taken, we would probably see a lot less than the national statistic of 10% (1 in 10), or 6.1 million women and their partners of re-productive age that deal with infertilty in the US. Such a sad statistic! I mean gosh, if my OB had run bloodwork tests on me annually, we would have seen that my FSH was rising and my AMH was declining. Since I knew we wanted more kids, this probably would have altered our decision to wait “at least a year” after we got married, and maybe now we’d have a happy health baby, or two. Hindsight, 20/20.
Hopefully with new technology providing options, communication about future infertility could begin to become routine. However, until that time, I think it is crucial for young women to have open conversations about future fertility with their OBGYN’s.
Here is the article – by SARAH ELIZABETH RICHARDS
WHEN I recently mentioned to a pregnant acquaintance that I was writing a book about egg freezing (and had frozen my own eggs in hopes of preserving my ability to have children well into my 40s), she replied, “You’re so lucky. I wish I had known to freeze my eggs.”
In our fertility-obsessed society, women can’t escape the message that it’s harder to get pregnant after 35. And yet, it’s not a conversation patients are having with the doctors they talk to about their most intimate issues — their OB-GYNs — unless they bring up the topic first. OB-GYNs routinely ask patients during their annual exams about their sexual histories and need for contraception, but often missing from the list is, “Do you plan to have a family?”
OB-GYNs are divided on whether it’s their responsibility to broach the topic with patients. Those who take an “ask me first” approach understandably don’t want to offend women who don’t want children, or frighten those who do. It doesn’t take much for an informational briefing to spiral into a teary heart-to-heart about dating woes. Do you reassure a distraught 38-year-old that she’s still got time; encourage her to seriously consider having a baby on her own; or freak her out so she settles for a lackluster relationship? And considering that fertility figures are averages (while one woman may need fertility treatment at age 36, another can get pregnant naturally at 42), when is the right age to sound the alarm?
But the biggest impediment to bringing the issue up was that doctors didn’t have many good recommendations for a single woman: she could either use an anonymous donor’s sperm to have a baby today, or she could fertilize her eggs with it and freeze the resulting embryos for future use.
Now, a better option is gaining credibility. Egg freezing (a technique that allows women to store their unfertilized eggs to use with a future partner when they are older) has been available in the United States since the early 2000s, but success rates at first were low and doctors have been hesitant to push it. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine said the technique shouldn’t be “offered or marketed as a means to defer reproductive aging,” and deemed it “experimental.”
Last week, the doctors’ society announced that it was removing the experimental label (though it stopped short of endorsing widespread use of egg freezing to put off having children). After reviewing four randomized controlled trials, it found little difference in the effectiveness of using fresh or frozen eggs in in-vitro fertilization, and said that babies conceived from frozen eggs faced no increased risk of birth defects or developmental problems.
The procedure isn’t a panacea. It’s terribly expensive — often $10,000 to $15,000 — and is not usually covered by insurance. In addition, there’s a worrisome lack of data regarding the success rates of eggs frozen by the women at the end of their baby-making days. The majority of the women in the four studies reviewed by the society were under 35, and it warned against giving women who want to delay childbearing “false hope” that their frozen eggs will work when they are ready to get pregnant years later. Although estimates of the number of American women who have frozen their eggs for nonmedical reasons are in the thousands, very few have yet returned to thaw them — there are only a couple of thousand babies born from frozen eggs in the world.
Women should be allowed to come to their own conclusions and take their own risks — there’s a fine line between doctors’ “mentioning” and “suggesting” the procedure — but this is an option they should be hearing about from their OB-GYNs. To standardize the message, professional groups like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists should create pamphlets that doctors can give to patients. OB-GYN residents also can learn suggested scripts that present the information in a nonbiased, nonalarmist way.
I first learned about egg freezing from a friend who had talked to her OB-GYN about whether she should freeze, given her family’s history of premature menopause. When I asked my doctor about the procedure, she said she had heard that the success rates had recently improved and gave me the name of a respected fertility doctor. As a result, I stashed away several batches of eggs between the ages of 36 and 38 — just before the cutoff at which many doctors no longer consider eggs worthwhile to save.
I was fortunate, because I knew to ask. We must go one step further and expect OB-GYNs to bring up family planning at every annual visit, so that women have the information they need to choose to take charge of their fertility. Perhaps more women will think about freezing in their early to mid-30s, when their chances of success are greater. Or maybe, after being asked about their plans from their very first visit, more will decide to start families when their eggs are at their prime, and won’t even need to freeze.
Here’s a link to the original article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/23/opinion/we-need-to-talk-about-our-eggs.html?_r=1