As part of National Infertility Awareness Week (April 24-30), Resolve has asked bloggers to post about an infertility myth and how it has affected my life or lives of friends and family members. Here is my post.
Myth: You waited too long to have kids.
Busted!: While it is true that fertility decreases with age, youth does not guarantee fertility. Many men and women in their 20s have infertility. And women in their early 40s can get pregnant and deliver healthy babies. However, if you know that you want to have children, the earlier you try, the less likely it is that you will have trouble.
I bought into this myth myself for a long time. My mother has told me this on more than one occasion. I'm sure many of my friends and acquaintances have thought this (though, fortunately, none of them has ever actually said this to me). I have thought it myself.
I even wrote here about the fact that I felt like a fraud for claiming to be infertile when "the most likely reason for our infertility is simply that I waited until I was too old to start TTC." Granted, I never tried to get pregnant before I was 37, so I really don't know if I would have been fertile when I was younger. I will never know.
In retrospect, I think that perhaps REs tend to fall back too readily on "advanced" age as an explanation for infertility in any woman who is over 35. . . particularly when there is no other explanation for why she can't get pregnant. It's true, as a general proposition, that fertility declines with age, but that does not tell us why an individual woman may be unable to get pregnant.
Really, there is just so much about fertility and conception that is not known or well understood. Which is why many couples with infertility get the "unexplained" label.
For a long time, I blamed myself for our infertility, and I felt really, really guilty about it. I've known since our second date that my husband wanted to be a father, and it seemed that his decision to marry me was depriving him of that opportunity. Likewise, his choice of wife was depriving his parents of the opportunity for grandchildren (he is an only child). I blamed myself for this.
Through counseling, I realized that our infertility is not my fault. Even if my age were the sole cause (and we know now it is not), it still wasn't fair to blame myself. I made the best decisions for my life with the information I had available to me at the time. It's not my "fault" that I didn't meet my husband until I was 36. It's not my "fault" that I chose to go back to school to start a second career at age 30. Plenty of women wait until they are 37, or even older, to try to have children and are able to conceive naturally, without medical intervention. (I seem to know a lot of them.)
So while it may be helpful, prospectively, to make young women aware that fertility declines with age, I don't think that blaming women who waited until over 35 to attempt pregnancy is fair or fruitful.
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