Understanding your fertility

Continuing my thoughts from a previous post, I was relieved to read a fertility expert echoing similar points. Gedis Grudzinskas, a consultant in infertility and gynaecology, is annoyed with the baby-making industry giving women false hope and asks the question, ‘Why don’t we simply look at a woman’s age to estimate her fertility?’

Age seems an obvious indicator of how much time we really have left to conceive, yet in pretty much every other area of our lives, we women fight to be younger. We dress to look younger, we buy creams to avoid or reduce wrinkles, we use cosmetics to hide the signs of aging, we watch programmes about looking younger, we may even go under the knife. I’m very glad that people are always very surprised when they learn my age. Their disbelief boosts my self-confidence and of course I love looking a lot younger than I am! I can fool the outside world into believing I’m younger, however I can’t fool my body.

Advances in medicine doesn’t mean a woman can delay having children. There’s no guarantee that if you freeze your eggs when you’re younger that you will successfully conceive using them years later. And there’s no certainty that even if you have a good ovarian reserve remaining that those eggs will be healthy.

If only more fertility specialists were as blunt as Gedis Grudzinskas. It may be disconcerting to know that “in a woman of 30, one in three embryos that look normal will be genetically flawed… At 40 it goes up to two out of three embryos” but if we know the truth earlier on, we can plan accordingly. As one of Gedis Grudzinskas’ patients in her late thirties admitted, she hadn’t yet found Mr Right, but she knew a Mr Compromise. This may sound somewhat cold and calculating to some of you, but going to a fertility clinic as a last resort can also feel incredibly cold and calculating.

We need to be told the truth about our fertility. And, perhaps more importantly, we need to tell ourselves the truth. Having a doctor tell you to come back in a year because you haven’t managed to get pregnant and then discovering your fertility has plummetted during that time is stressful as well as unhelpful. But we have to take responsibility for our own bodies, not assuming that the medical profession will be able to wave their magic wand and make us pregnant whenever we decide.

Read the Guardian interview with Gedis Grudzinskas…

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