Did you know that infertility affects roughly 12–15 percent of reproductive-age couples in the U.S.? If you're lucky enough to have conceived without much effort (and I'm incredibly grateful to count myself in that group), you might not be aware of just how many people do have fertility issues. But chances are good that you know someone who does, and so you can put a face to that statistic.
As National Infertility Awareness Week kicks off (it started yesterday, and goes through the 25th), a new report from the Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey, Infertility in America 2015, reveals some interesting findings about the topic—and what Millennials and Gen Xers think about it. The report surveyed 1,000 adults, ages 25–40, who are either actively trying to get pregnant now or intend to be within five years. (Yes, RMANJ has skin in this game.) Among the study's findings:
- Most Millennials plan to wait until their early to mid-30'sto start trying to have a family—with 48% of respondents saying they're "focused on career," 33% saying they "can't afford it," and 19% saying they're "too young."
- A majority of Millennial respondents—67%—said they believe that "advances in science mean younger adults shouldn't worry about infertility." (Fifty-seven percent of Gen X respondents feel the same way.)
- Seventy-three percent of Millennials surveyed would use cryopreservation, or egg/sperm/embryo freezing, compared with 64% of Gen Xers.
- Seventy percent of Millennials surveyed said they'd change jobs in order to get fertility treatments covered by insurance if they were struggling to conceive.
"The greatest misconception about Infertility is that in today's day and age younger adults don't have to worry about infertility because advances in science will be able to overcome most issues," Shefali Shastri, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and ob-gyn at RMANJ, told Parents.com. "Since the 1980's, there have been significant developments in this field as evidenced by higher pregnancy rates, but ultimately we can't stop aging."
Dr. Shastri feels there's a three-fold reason for that misconception, starting with the idea that "30 is the new 20." "While this may hold true in other aspects of life and health, this doesn't apply to human reproduction," she says. "Despite education, it maybe difficult to accept the concept that we can't stop the clock." Additionally, we read about older couples having babies and don't always hear the full details (donor eggs, surrogacy, etc). And for many young couples, family planning just isn't something to think about now. "Unfortunately sometimes life gets in the way and by the time the couple revisits their fertility a significant amount of time has passed," Dr. Shastri says.
That said, there are exciting developments in the field of infertility research—including RMANJ-pioneered comprehensive chromosome screening (CCS) and single embryo transfer (SET), which are being adopted by assisted reproductive technology programs throughout the country, according to Dr. Michael Drews, the founding partner and medical director of RMANJ—that can give hope to couples struggling with infertility.
Erika Janes is the Digital director of Parents.com, and the mom of two boys.