As we journey through womanhood, there are so many rites of passage moments that we have to acquiesce. As women, we learn very early on that we will be navigating the evolution of constant changes surrounding our bodies for a lifetime. Additionally, we also begin learning the magnitude in which we’ll be subjected to people’s opinions and the societal scrutiny as a result of those same changes. From our first menstrual cycle to the revelation of societal gender norms, to the legendary tale of the birds and the bees -- we are immediately indoctrinated.
In this series of changing events, life goes from daisies, unicorns, and fairy dust to “Are you married?”, “When do you plan on having kids?” You wake up one day and 30 is no longer this fictional goal post of your dream family, white picket fence and house on the hill, 10 figure dream job, and 5-star body --- you arrive at the harsh reality that life Is going to do one thing and one thing only which is LIFE.
It’s almost like the standard greetings of “ hello” and “how are you” aren’t even normal greetings anymore after 30 people audaciously lead with straight-up wanting to know what’s up with your ovaries. Is society to blame for us attributing womanhood solely to being a mother and wife? What value is one’s reality rooted in when it is not based on that tradition? Let’s face it, those of us who don’t occupy marriage or motherhood can feel the heat when the conversations come up in the boardroom, at family holiday gatherings, etc. “You don’t have forever!”, “Your clock is ticking! “The pickings are slim!” “When are you going to settle down and give us a baby?!” There is a slew of reasons why millennials are choosing to have children later or not at all. We all know there are many reasons women choose not to conceive or have difficulty conceiving children. This includes a host of fertility issues, or simply just not having the desire to do so. Studies show, that at the age of 35 women’s fertility rate begins to decline. This leaves one to wonder, is the rush to motherhood that of beating this fertility time clock that we are constantly reminded of unwarrantedly, or are there other factors such as minority women being adversely affected by health issues due to the lack of resources within the health care infrastructure that plays a major role in women thinking twice about having children. Two things can certainly be true at one time.
In light of it being National Fertility week, let’s take a look at some of the facts surrounding infertility, and maternal health facts for women living in the United States.
Based on Fortune's business insights, there is a projected estimate of a $36 Billion IVF market size increase by 2026. IVF is the fertilization process of combining egg and sperm in a lab. Once the embryo is fertilized it is transferred back to the mother to further proceed with the conception. The average cost of one cycle of IVF is 25,000, coupled with the lack of accessing overall health care, and the extensive wait times for obtaining IVF, this isn’t a necessarily tangible option for many women living in the United States.
7.5 million women in the US struggle with infertility, per the CDC this is defined as one year trying to conceive without becoming pregnant. 20% of women in the US become pregnant naturally and 1 in 8 couples have fertility challenges. Additionally, 10% of women in the US who are of childbearing age have received assistance for infertility (such as IVF), and 90% of pregnancies can be achieved by science. There is a 20% miscarriage rate for women 30 and over, and a 40% miscarriage rate for women 40 and over.
These facts alone are reasons why people need to lead with empathy when addressing women and their journey to motherhood. Blatantly asking women if they are expecting or why they aren’t a mother yet can be extremely triggering. We see and hear people every day commenting on women’s weight, and speculating if they are pregnant or not without having full disclosure as to what exactly is happening. This ties back into the harsh reality we become accustomed to as little girls when it comes to our bodies and people’s perception and opinions of them. Constant celebrity headlines are speculating who may be pregnant, weight changes, etc. without knowing if they are pregnant, embarking on IVF, etc. We see how women’s bodies are constantly picked apart without any regard for their particular journey. We also need to be accepting of women who simply choose not to embark on motherhood. Womanhood is multifaceted, and our value and purpose are comprised of many things—which is what makes us so eclectic and special. Society is moving toward a more inclusive conversation that is providing more research and facts on infertility and science is creating more options for women with certain pregnancy struggles. The beauty of women being at the helm of these conversations is that we get to speak for ourselves and voice our thoughts on our reality. Seeing more women on the clinical research side will help to continue to shift the narrative surrounding maternal health.
If you or someone you know would like to speak to a health professional surrounding your journey with infertility check out our providers at theshadesofwellness.com