Many of you know that know my quest for motherhood started later in life. Consumed with my career, I spent more time in my 30s trying not to get pregnant than thinking about my dwindling fertility. Suddenly at age 40, I realized I’d better get on with it and then found out getting pregnant wasn’t as easy as that. On this episode of Sex, Body, and Soul , I talk to Dr. Shannon Clark, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, about our twin journeys trying to get pregnant after age 35. Our story is so common today! Listen to the podcast to hear us discuss the options, opportunities, and risks of pregnancy later in life.
I was relatively fortunate: My daughter was conceived through a single round of in vitro fertilization (IVF) when I was 42 using one of my own eggs that was still healthy. Not only that, but IVF was covered by my health insurer. Many women aren’t as lucky on either front.
Dr. Clark’s journey was somewhat different, but fortunately, also ended happily. Her first pregnancy at 39 ended in miscarriage, followed with a diagnosis of melanoma. After cancer treatment at 40, she went straight for IVF. Five unsuccessful cycles of IVF later – each of them heartbreaking and expensive – she decided to use a donor egg, which resulted in a successful pregnant. Amidst it all, she realized that if she, a physician trained in reproductive health, didn’t know about fertility challenges or how to overcome them, there must be many other women in the same boat. As a result, she started Babies After 35 to help educate other women about fertility so they could be aware and prepared.
For those of you who are struggling getting pregnant, there are options! There is no one-size-fits-all, but you can talk to a reproductive endocrinologist/fertility specialist who can help you rule out common issues and try to pinpoint any problem(s). They would start by taking a detailed history and doing a physical workup to try to identify the least invasive options that could lead to a successful pregnancy.
The fertility journey is stressful and unpredictable, and does not always have a happy ending. Fertility treatments are also expensive - so unfortunately they are not be an option for everyone who needs them, which I think is just awful. According to Dr. Clark, some insurance companies will pay for certain parts of IVF (but not all, such as acquisition of donor eggs). The total cost will vary depending on what is needed. For instance, women who are older may need more expensive medication to stimulate their ovaries to produce more eggs. Dr. Clark estimates that a single cycle of IVF is likely to cost somewhere between $15,000 and $25,000. Ouch!
Dr. Clark was a wealth of information on the fertility process because of her research and experience, but she is not actually a fertility doctor. Rather, her specialty is in the management of pregnancies that are high risk due to health or medical factors of the mother (such as diabetes, hypertension, or short cervix) or the baby (like a birth defect or placental issue). Believe it or not, pregnancies in women over age 35 are often called “geriatric pregnancies.” (How rude!) Well, that was me, so I know first-hand how having a “high risk” pregnancy can add to a woman’s anxiety!
In addition to having an “elderly pregnancy” (another outdated term applied to pregnant women over age 35), I had a uterine fibroid that grew to the size of a cabbage when I was pregnant, giving me a terrible backache. On the podcast, Dr. Clark talks about the importance of knowing whether you have fibroids (the majority of women do by age 40!), where they are, and how big they are if you are hoping to get pregnant, because they can impact your ability to get pregnant, the pregnancy itself, and also your birth plan. Knowledge is power – so get informed!
If you are trying to get pregnant, I recommend you check out these ovulation kits and pregnancy tests. I don’t know about you, but when I was trying to get pregnant, I absolutely hated waiting in line at CVS every month to stock up on these fertility necessities. These Meet Juliet products have an uplifting message on every box, and can be delivered right to your door so you can take one thing off your long to-do list and relax. Just what the doctor ordered!
Wishing you every happiness,