Advanced maternal age and how it gets in the way of pregnancy is in the news again. This time, the focus is on how so many women have the misunderstanding that assisted reproductive technology can defeat age as a barrier to conception.
How many times have I heard, "Dr. Kristiansen -- I hate that term! Can't we use something different to refer to my age?" Sorry -- it's a rather tacky-sounding medical terminology shortcut that means "chronologically older than average for optimal fertility".
Here's a message that needs to be heard during this National Infertility Awareness Week:
The fact: Without intervention, most women in their 40's (and many in their 30's) would not get pregnant.
Another fact: Yes, IVF is incredible technology worth marveling at, and one of the reasons is its ability to facilitate conception in women who otherwise would not get pregnant.
The Big Myth: IVF is so effective, you can wait until you're of "advanced maternal age" to try and get pregnant -- and have a high likelihood of succeeding by way of fertility treatment.
That myth IS a fact for some women. But only for some women. Are you one of them? There's a good chance that a thorough diagnostic workup by a reproductive endocrinologist can provide clues to answer that question. Can we guarantee it? No.
I don't think either the media or fertility experts intend to confuse women about the question of age and pregnancy. But the confusion among women is apparently prevalent and ongoing.
Just as it would be overkill to suggest that all women in their teens or early 20's run out and get fertility testing to prepare for the future, it is unreasonable to recommend women put all their eggs into that future basket by expecting ART to be their surefire answer to pregnancy. (There is the option of freezing your eggs, a different but related story...)
So, the simple truth: If you're delaying conception until your late 30's or older with the intention of simply walking into any fertility center and getting pregnant easily on the first try, you're automatically decreasing your odds.
If you're like many of my patients and have delayed pregnancy for lifestyle reasons like not finding Mr. Right, wanting to give your all to your career before parenthood, or because your finances aren't in order yet, you can take heart in knowing that virtually any safe and effective technique will be made available to you here at Houston Fertility Center. Not only that, but the treatment will be delivered by a team of experienced, compassionate women.
We know how much you want a baby. We applaud your courage and tenacity in the pursuit of parenthood. We'll educate you about every treatment option. We'll be your cheerleaders in the journey. And we'll be honest with you, too.
~ Dr. Sonja Kristiansen M.D.
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