Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stats, Data and Minimalization

This morning I tuned into Good Morning America and found my favorite morning crew discussing a new article in Atlantic Monthly titled "How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?". Of course my ears perked up to hear about fertility being addressed on such a public and popular forum. If you haven't read the article yet, please do. Jean Twenge expostulates the "myth" that women have decreased fertility after the age of 35. She points to new studies and research that suggest that healthy women are just as likely to conceive if intercourse is timed appropriately between the ages of 35 - 39 as they are from 19 - 26 and that the studies suggesting otherwise are pre-victorian, dated, and rubbish.

I'm not a scientist, reproductive endocrinologist, or statistician, so I will not argue with the information she's bringing to light in the article. I will point out that even if everything she's saying in the article checks out and "healthy" women have been having self-induced baby panic over their ticking biological clocks for years for no good reason, this still does not address the 1 in 8  who are not "healthy" reproductively. It minimizes women who struggle with infertility and those stats are crystal clear. 7.3 million people in the US alone are battling this disease.

Ms. Twenge is one of the lucky women who waited until after 35 to start a family and did so with ease. She conceived her children without the staggering expense of ART and had happy, healthy pregnancies. I'm thrilled for her (seriously, not being sarcastic here). My fear is that this new research and her article will give women who do not know that infertility lies in their path a false sense of hope that they can continue to wait and will have the families they dreamed of when they are ready. 

Towards the end of the article Twenge does acknowledge that no data is perfect and that if women are concerned about their fertility they can check out "new (albeit imperfect) technologies" to freeze their eggs. It comes in as an afterthought to a piece that (to me at least) screamed "Don't worry, all those doctors and crazy infertile people are wrong! They're a minority. You can have your family on your terms and your time."

I married at 27 and six months into my marriage began trying to conceive. At 29 I found out that my ovarian reserve and egg quality were more suited to a woman 40 years old. I certainly did not expect this news (no woman does). I honestly thought I didn't have to worry about egg quality until I was at least 40. I mean, celebrities are having babies at 42 all the time right? I sincerely hope that this article does not lull women into a false sense of hope. You may be lucky and conceive at 37 after a passionate night and too much red wine, but you should also face the fact that at 34 you may conceive after investing nearly $40,000 with your spouse shooting you in the ass every morning along the way. 


  1. Terrible, terrible article. Bahhh... Started TTC at 25 and still no baby... I seriously doubt I'll be better off at 35. And I do beleive that I fall into the "healthy woman" criteria... I don't have DOR, POF, PCOS, or endo. Bahh! Rubbish!

    Hope you're doing well sweet lady! Grow baby Gage, grow!

    1. Thanks Amanda! :) I was a little lathered up over the article. The morning hosts were even joking with one of the correspondents (in her 30s) who just got married and said, "no need to worry or hurry!" I just felt that it was a big step backwards in information.

  2. Call me a bit biased, but I am of the strong opinion that this post would be an excellent, articulate, much-needed letter to the editors of both Good Morning America, Atlantic Monthly, and an Op-Ed piece in our local paper. Get the message out!

  3. Excellent rebuttal, Lindsey! I get so mad about stuff like this. I was listening to NPR when they did a piece on the egg freezing, and it wasn't until someone who had done IVF called in that they really addressed the fact that just because you freeze your eggs at 27 or 30 or 35 doesn't mean they will result in a baby later. If I had frozen my eggs at 30 chances are I would still be using an egg donor today, because it isn't age related that my eggs are chromosomally abnormal at 37. My ovarian reserve had no indications that my eggs were busted. Grrrr. I hate when people say, "Oh, my mom had me at 38 so I have no rush to get pregnant now." Yeah, well your mom grew up before the prevalence of BPA and massive pesticide use, which I maintain are big factors in the epidemic of infertility. There are no guarantees. (There are the lucky ones, but it's so important that it's realized that they are LUCKY and not the NORM.) Grrr. Excellent, excellent post and I agree--it would make a terrific letter to the editor! :)

  4. I agree with these other women who are recommending you send this to the editor! Do it! It's just so wise and well-written.

  5. Thanks ladies! It has been submitted. :) we will see if it gets picked up. Thanks for the encouragement.

  6. So true. I think it's good for people to realize they don't need to panic about reaching 35 and then all their eggs disappearing, I hate the term "biological clock". However on the other hand once you are going through infertility of course you wished you had started trying earlier. I think all women should get general checkups with their gyno to watch out for things like endometriosis, PCOS and low AMH so that they can have an idea of their fertility levels. Of course even if they are fine, there could be an issue with the man!