You can’t bear to let anyone else hold your 6-month-old niece at family gatherings, the hat you’re absentmindedly knitting seems suspiciously small, and your Netflix queue is overrun with titles like “Baby Boom” and “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”
If you’re ready for a baby, but not sure that your body is cooperating, it may be time to consult a fertility specialist.
Infertility—a disease of the reproductive system that impairs the body’s ability to conceive children—affects about 7.3 million women and their partners in the U.S. according to the CDC’s 2002 National Survey of Family Growth. And with the average cost of an IVF cycle coming in at a gulp-inducing $12,400, you’ll want to maximize your chances from the start.
To help you take those first, er, baby steps down the path to fertility, LearnVest spoke to Dr. Alan Copperman, director of infertility at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, about the anxiety, misconceptions, key questions, and finally the triumph of today’s fertility treatment options to help get you started on diaper duty.
LearnVest: What does a fertility specialist do?
Dr. Alan Copperman: A reproductive endocrinologist practices all aspects of reproductive medicine, but in this day and age, we find ourselves really focusing on fertility preservation or curing infertility. There are animals that can simply look at each other from across a pond and get pregnant with quintuplets, but humans can be incredibly inefficient when it comes to reproduction. In humans, not all eggs are normal, they don’t always fertilize, they don’t always implant and they don’t always stick. And the major reason why there’s so much infertility is not because people aren’t eating right or are too stressed out—it’s because of reproductive aging.
For a woman in her twenties, about 90% of her eggs are normal, but by the time she’s in her forties, nearly 90% are abnormal. What we do is try to maximize fertility—and that starts with encouraging a woman to take her reproductive options seriously. If she’s in her thirties, and isn’t ready to conceive, egg freezing is an option that’s really come of age—it’s no longer considered experimental, and there have been thousands upon thousands of healthy babies born. If a woman is married, then we encourage her to conceive sooner than later because it doesn’t get easier over time.
What exactly is fertility preservation?
In general, fertility preservation is egg freezing, although it could also be embryo freezing. We’ve had many couples that aren’t at the right point in their lives or careers just yet, but they want to have children in the future, so we give them fertility medications, retrieve the eggs, fertilize them with the sperm and then freeze and hold them in liquid nitrogen. In a couple of years, the couple can thaw the embryos—and their fertility will essentially be preserved at the age that they are now, instead of the age that they will be.