Women Can Do Anything*
Having it all
I am proud to be a strong, independent woman and am the daughter of a strong, independent mother. Like many women just like me, I feel strongly that women can have it all. We can have successful careers and with those careers, we can balance the roles of caregiver, wife, mother, friend and family member.
The one caveat
A significant proportion of my job as a reproductive endocrinologist involves counseling couples about family planning. In addition to discussing the root of their infertility problem, we also discuss age and how many children the couple would like to have. Age, in particular, is something that requires a significant degree of counseling. So here is where I, very regrettably, place a huge caveat on my “women can do anything” stance.
"Unlike men who produce millions of new sperm approximately every three months, women are born with a finite number of eggs. As we age, those eggs age."
Dr. Abigail Delaney
Reproductive Health Specialist
Fertility rates decline with age
At birth we may have 1-2 million eggs and by puberty alone, it is as low as 400,000. We see a fairly consistent fertility rate in women until about age 35. Past the age of 35, monthly success rates for spontaneous pregnancy drop from approximately 25 percent per month to 15 percent. Past the age of 37, this number drops even more dramatically. At age 42, women have a less than 1 percent chance of conceiving spontaneously on their own.
And in addition to decreasing fertility, we also see an increase in risk of miscarriage due to poor egg quality.
What does this mean?
What it means is that women simply cannot wait forever to start or build their family. We have a finite limit to our reproductive potential. This is the cold, hard truth ladies, and something we cannot escape.
Or can we?
There is no technology that can reverse time, however, there is a technology that can help women plan or prepare for their future family without fear of the dreaded “advanced maternal age.”
Protecting future fertility
Oocyte and embryo cryopreservation are increasingly being used for women and couples who want to ensure they are able to build their family. Oocyte cryopreservation, in particular, is helpful for single women who have not found Mr. or Mrs. Right, or for women who are simply in the stages of their life where they are focusing on building their careers and not their families.
As with fertility treatments, cryopreservation is more successful with women who plan and pursue treatment early. The greatest success rates at preserving fertility are in those women who freeze eggs before the age of 37.
The bottom line
While women can really have it all, we must plan accordingly. Fertility preservation can help women to have some control over their long-term reproductive goals. We at Reproductive Health Specialists at Methodist Women’s Hospital are available to help you decide what form of treatment is best for you.