If I Were Molly Ringwald: The Truth about Age-Related Infertility

In yesterday’s post, I expressed my disappointment that Molly Ringwald, 41, mother to newborn twins, didn’t use her celebrity status to educate women about infertility, age-related and otherwise. If I were Molly Ringwald, I would use every opportunity to communicate the “infertility facts” to women around the world.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children (Talk Miramax Books, 2002) was the catalyst for my decision to pursue single motherhood at age 35, even though my friends blurted example after example of celebrities in their forties who had recently given birth to children.

Regarding women’s ever-decreasing fertility, Hewlett stated, “According to figures put out by the Mayo Clinic, peak fertility occurs between ages 20 and 30. Fertility drops 20% after age 30, 50% after age 35, and 95% after age 40.”

Hewlett also used the results of the High-Achieving Women, 2001 survey to outline what she called “The Sobering Facts” for the professional and private lives of highly educated, high-earning women.

• Somewhere between one-third and one-half of all professional women in America are forced to sacrifice having children.

• In the United States, Britain, and Australia, the rule of thumb seems to be the more successful the woman, the less likely it is she will either be married or have a child.

• Among ultra-achieving women, defined as those earning more than $100,000, no one had a first child after age 36. Most of the women who were mothers had their first child in their early or mid-20s.

• Among high-achieving women, defined as those earning more than $55,000 (if ages 28-40) or $65,000 (if ages 41-55), only 8% of those in the older age group got married for the first time after age 30, and only 3% after age 35.  And, for most women, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.”

In 2002, I hated hearing the results of Creating a Life, facts that seemed to scream at me from every possible media outlet. By 2003, I was a 35-year-old, single, successful giant-screen-film marketing and distribution executive whose biological clock was not just ticking, but blaring. Knowing that I could always fall in love, but wouldn’t always be able to bear children, I decided to try to have my own child via insemination with donor sperm.

It took seven cycles of intrauterine insemination (IUI)—two with Clomid® and three with injectable ovulatory-stimulating medications—and a miscarriage, before I had success. And, I was only 35.

During that time, I attended Infertility Support Group meetings organized through Resolve: The National Infertility Asssociation, and in my group of women from downtown Chicago were three who had gotten married at age 39, then started trying to get pregnant. All three had different doctors, and each of these doctors told each of these women that she had less than a 1% chance of having children with her own eggs.

In March, at age 40, I had my consultation with my new reproductive endocrinologist, who works in a clinic that does pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which identifies the embryos that are chromosomally abnormal and therefore (1) would never implant, (2) would implant but end in miscarriage, or (3) could go to term, resulting in a newborn who would die within days.

He told me that, if I chose not to do in vitro fertilization (IVF), I would have a 1-5% chance of getting pregnant on my own—probably closer to 1%. He added that moving forward with IVF with PGD and transferring two chromosomally normal embryos would give my husband and me a 20-30% chance of having one child. To be clear, that means our odds of failure are 70-80%—even after ensuring that our embryos are healthy and should therefore implant and stay put.

According to Resolve, 10% of the population suffers from infertility, which totals more than 7.3 million people just in the United States. As evidenced by two new studies conducted by Resolve and Church and Dwight. Co., makers of First Response® products, too many women still are uneducated about their fertility potential. In findings released on April 9, Resolve announced the following results:

• When it comes to planning key aspects of life, planning for future pregnancy falls to the bottom of the list of priorities for women of child-bearing age.

• The majority of child-bearing aged women (75%) believe it is easy for a woman to become pregnant.

• Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Resolve constituents thought they could get pregnant without any problem when they first started trying.

• The majority (86%) of Resolve constituents would have taken charge faster and sought the care of a medical professional sooner if they have known more about their fertility potential before they started to try to conceive.

The facts are that 10% of us suffer from infertility; age-related infertility only hits those who wait too long; and the majority of men and women are uneducated about their fertility potential, feeling that they can wait almost indefinitely because, “Look at all those celebrities who are able to conceive later in life. And, some even have twins, creating instant families.” And, now Molly Ringwald has been added to that list.

Oh, if only I had the influence of Molly Ringwald. Oh, how I would educate the world.

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