Knowing the truth about your fertility
Know the Facts
Did you know that by your late 30s, your chances of getting pregnant are about half of what they were in your 20s?
Or by age 40, your chances of miscarriage are higher than your chances of a healthy pregnancy?
As a woman in her mid 30s with no immediate plans of having a child, fertility is a thought that comes to mind frequently. Just like me, more and more women are putting off having children for later in their lives for several reasons; one of the main ones being their careers. Unfortunately, our biological clocks can’t and won’t wait for us until we’re ready. Sad but true, and that’s one of the things I dislike the most about this whole situation. As women, sometimes it feels like we need to have children now even if we’re not ready just because our time is running out. Fortunately, as science advances, we have more and more options. One of them is freezing our eggs, but how do we know if we should freeze them or not, and if so, at what age? This differs by woman and that’s where Egg-Q comes in. Egg-Q is a test women can take to determine the state and count of her eggs. If the count is low, then freezing them at that moment is a great idea so we don’t miss out on having kids later due to infertility. I recently chatted with Silvia Mestre, Founder and CEO of Egg-Q here in Miami about fertility, infertility and Egg-Q in general. I had just as many questions as you do, so check them out. Stay tuned for a follow up post because I will be checking it out myself. Yes, I will be taking the test to see if I need to freeze my eggs and I will be bringing you guys along with me on the experience. Below, my interview with Silvia.
Many women are putting off having children for later in life mostly because of their careers, but many of them at the same time don’t think about the possibility of having fertility issues because of that. If we decide to put off childbearing for later in our lives, what are the most important steps we should take regarding fertility?
The first step is to initiate the conversation with your gynecologist. Discussing your family history, personal health as well as your lifestyle. A very simple step women can also take is to talk to their moms (or aunts, sisters or grandmothers) about their fertility. Did they reach menopause early? Suffer many miscarriages? Fertility can be hereditary. Get informed!
In layman’s terms, what is Egg-Q?
Egg-Q was conceived (pun intended) as a proactive, inexpensive way for women to explore their fertility level before trying to conceive and help them make one of the most important decisions of their life: conceive or freeze your eggs.
Egg-Q involves a super simple three-step process.
The initial step is to fill out a brief fertility health questionnaire online. Then schedule a simple blood test for AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) levels at any of our partner labs. Once we receive the lab results, we will contact you to schedule a 15-minute skype consultation with our fertility specialist to discuss the lab results and next steps, taking into account the information you included on your questionnaire.
At the end of the test, what will Egg-Q tell us and what options do we have then?
The Egg-Q process will educate you on your expected fertility level overall and how you can use the information from the test and skype conference to plan your family life. Most importantly, after the fertility consultation, you will be empowered to make the best decision for yourself and your lifestyle.
What are other issues that we usually don’t think about that can affect a woman’s fertility besides age?
Diminished ovarian reserve can be caused by a number of factors, including age; endometriosis and some autoimmune conditions such as lupus; treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy; smoking, alcohol and drug use; ovarian surgeries; family history and other genetic causes; and even environmental toxins. The most suspected environmental toxins are ambient radiation and BPA found in plastics.
What can we do now besides taking the Egg-Q test to avoid early fertility loss?
Some factors are in a woman’s control like what we eat, how much we work out and how well we take care of our bodies. Weight is an important factor and we do encourage our patients to maintain a healthy body not just for conception but to prevent excessive weight gain during and after pregnancy.
However, the reality is many factors that affect fertility are not in our control. Genetics play a big role which is why understanding your family history is an important part of the “when to get pregnant” conversation.
And the biggest risk factor remains your age. You may still be having regular periods into your 40s, and still have a poor ovarian reserve. Most women with low ovarian reserve do produce enough hormones to get their periods.
That is why a conversation with your gynecologist about fertility should be part of the standard annual conversation. Our goal with Egg-Q is not only to encourage women to take the test but also encourage gynecologists to speak with their patients before the fertility issue becomes front and center.
Freezing our eggs can sound kind of scary to some women, especially since fertility or lack thereof isn’t really talked about among Latinas. With that said, what should we know about egg freezing? Is it really that normal to do so?
I know! I am a Latina and come from a huge family of mostly women. Many of our moms had children when they were younger, and never had to think about these issues. However, it is important that we talk about these issues and understand that yes, it is normal to do so. It’s just still new so it takes some women some time to get used to the idea.
Egg freezing (or oocyte cryopreservaton) is a relatively new technology that allows fertility doctors to freeze a woman’s egg. We have been successfully freezing sperm and embryos (an egg that has already been fertilized by sperm) for many years. However, the FDA only approved egg freezing relatively recently. This allows women to freeze their own unfertilized eggs without the need to select a partner, giving you the freedom to choose when and with whom to have children. And in the meantime, you can complete education and career goals or deal with health issues if necessary, or just give yourself time to find the right partner- usually the hardest part of the equation!
Egg freezing gives women the ability to live life on their own time. It gives a woman an “insurance”- even though nothing is guaranteed in life- by saving her younger eggs to use at an older age. Younger eggs are naturally at lower risk of miscarriage and chromosomal abnormality.
Here is how the egg freezing process works. Women are given medications to stimulate their ovaries to produce eggs. These eggs are retrieved by an Infertility specialist under light anesthesia and then frozen rapidly through a process called vitrification. The eggs can then be frozen indefinitely until a woman chooses to use them, at which point they are thawed and then fertilized to create an embryo. Freezing eggs can be affordable through various financing options.
Is there a specific age or age range in which women should consider freezing their eggs or does that really vary by person?
In general, we know fertility declines rapidly after 35. But for some women, the decline starts much younger, which makes your late 20s or early 30s the best time to check your ovarian reserves. It also makes this the best time to take action if your eggs’ age doesn’t match your actual age.
By age 35, the average woman’s chances of conceiving every month are about half of what they were in her early twenties. By age 40, the average woman has a greater chance of having a miscarriage than having a successful pregnancy. And by age 45 nearly all women are infertile and unable to have their own biological child.
Stay tuned for the next post on my own experience with Egg-Q.