Understand And Control Your Fertility

When puberty creeps up on women , the only  information we are often given is  how not to contract a STI or get pregnant from the dreaded “talk” with  parents to the awkward sex ed lessons from school. But as women age, seldom do we receive any information on family planning and advice on how to prepare for or avoid reproducing. With the ongoing trend of adults choosing to start families later, it’s nice to know what reproductive options are available to help us stay in control of our fertility—whether we plan on becoming a parent or not.

These days many women in the United States are waiting a bit longer to have her first child—the average age of first-time mothers has increased from 24.9 in 2000 to 26.3 years as of 2014. And that comes down to a number of factors including, women prioritizing career, financial, and/or emotional situations first. A survey found that 82 percent of participants wanted to be financially established and not struggle like their parents had, while 63 percent wanted to focus on their career. Sixty percent also valued “freedom and don’t want to be tied down” whereas 80 percent resonated with “I want to have life experience and be emotionally stable”. Whatever the reasoning we may have for delayed childbearing, it’s comforting to know that we are not alone.

And thanks to advances in reproductive technology, we now have more options for family planning–some more practical than others. A less traditional way of family planning is egg freezing, a method that is viewed as a way to improve a woman’s chance of conceiving at an older age. In other words, many women think of egg freezing as an “insurance policy” in case they aren’t able to become pregnant later in life. This pricey procedure, however, doesn’t necessarily guarantee a pregnancy afterwards. A study conducted on frozen eggs from donors under age 30 found that women’s pregnancy rates ranged from 35 percent to 62 percent via this method.

What’s more, very few women who freeze their eggs actually use them in the end. Researchers at a fertility clinic in Santa Monica, CA found that from 2007 to 2012, 232 women had froze their eggs at the clinic to delay childbearing, but 95 percent of these women still had NOT used their eggs by 2015. Of the 49 women that were surveyed, 16 percent said they were able to have children by other means, 30 percent said they were still not ready to have children, and 53 percent said they haven’t used their eggs yet because they were still single. For these odds, the price to pay and the procedure to go through with egg freezing may not be worth it.

Luckily, we don’t necessarily have to take a gamble with egg freezing. There are plenty of other less extreme means to family plan that start by getting to know your ovulation cycle. Most healthy women start to ovulate a few weeks after she starts her period–typically on the 15th day of the menstrual cycle. However, it’s not the same for every woman. “The timing of ovulation can vary from cycle to cycle and from woman to woman,” said Shannon M. Clark, MD, associate professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Because of these variations, it’s a good idea to start getting familiar with your body’s menstrual calendar for at least three months to help better estimate your ovulation cycle.

Knowing your menstrual and ovulation cycle will help you better utilize tracking tools such as basal body temperature monitoring (BBT), menstrual chartings, ovulation kits, and fertility monitors. There are also various devices and apps on the market now that give you pretty accurate data on when you are most fertile depending on the method of tracking you prefer. And just like how you know when you are about to start your period, there are also signs that you are ovulating. Once you start recognizing the symptoms it can help you predict when it is likely to occur in the future–a good thing to be aware of you’re considering using birth control or not at that moment.

We are fortunate to have more resources than ever before to be in control of our fertility. From egg freezing to ovulation kits and everything in between, the advances in reproductive technology makes it easier us to family plan and decide if bearing children is what we want to do. If you haven’t thought about it by now, we ask you: how do you plan to start taking control of your fertility?

---

This article is the second of our three-part Managing Your Fertility series. Missed the first one? Check it out here and look out for the last article in which cover how your sex drive can affect your fertility management.

By: Shanice Perriatt