Is Infertility Worse In Your 20s? No, But It’s Different

I’m always leery of someone saying that their pain is worse than someone else’s. Just in general, proving one person suffers more doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t make anyone feel better, that’s for sure. So the age war that’s been happening in infertility circles always makes me a bit uncomfortable.

The general picture people get when they think about a woman struggling with infertility is a lady in her 40s whose put her career ahead of biology. Now, she’s doling thousands of dollars out to specialists in hopes of conceiving late in life. The truth is that there are all kinds of women who are struggling to have children. Sometimes they’re dealing with secondary infertility, meaning they’ve already had one child. And sometimes, they’re dealing infertility at a fairly young age, like the women highlighted in Huffington Post‘s recent piece, ‘Infertility In Your 20s: Getting Diagnosed When You Should Be In Your ‘Fertility Peak’.”

This article has some scary statistics about what seems to be a growing trend. For instance, 11% of married women under the age of 29 experience infertility, meaning they try unsuccessfully to get pregnant for over a year. It has stories of women who have been trying since they were 23 or 24, and still haven’t been able to get pregnant. Women like Mary Roberts, who says, ”I never thought our 20s would be so consumed and obsessed with dealing with these treatments. No one says their vows — ”˜through sickness and health’ — and thinks that right after you say them you’ll test that.”

The truth of the matter is that infertility at a young age is different from struggling in your 30s and 40s. Those women feel guilt about their age and whether they “waited too long.” Young women who can’t get pregnant grapple even more with feeling like a failure. After all, this is the time when it’s supposed to be easy.

Here are a few key differences for women struggling to get pregnant in their 20s.

  • Dismissive Doctors. Just like a woman in the Huffington Post piece described, I walked in to the doctor’s office after trying for eight months and was talk, “Come back a year from now.” It’s not just friends and family who will tell infertile women that they have plenty of time. Doctors are quick to wave off women in their 20s who are seeking medical help to get pregnant. And since fertility treatments often aren’t covered by regular insurance, women are hesitant to see specialists until they’re completely sure there’s a problem.
  • It’s only getting worse… What most of these doctors and acquaintances don’t realize is that a woman whose struggling in her 20s is well-aware of the difficult road ahead. She doesn’t want to wait until her 30s when things will possibly get worse. She feels just as pushed by time as an other woman, and yet no one seems to realize why.
  • This should be working. Society has a pretty accepted reason why women aren’t getting pregnant in their late 30s and early 40s. We accept that it’s harder later in life. But that makes difficulties at a young age even more frustrating. Because if it isn’t working in your 20s, there’s definitely a problem. I know that I’ve told myself, “You’re definitely failing as a woman. This should be easy at your age.”
  • Babies, babies everywhere. 26 is a pretty common age for women to start having children. I have at least a couple friends pregnant at any given time lately. And in your 20s, you’re young enough that lots of people are still asking you about your life plans. Most of those Q&A sessions include something like, “Aren’t you going to have kids like your sister?” Or maybe, “But don’t you want another before they get too far apart in age?”

Infertility in your 20s isn’t worse, but it’s definitely a different experience than those who struggle later on. There’s an accepted notion that it should be easy for younger women, and the truth of the matter is that it’s often not. That’s a hard pill to swallow for many young ladies, who are sitting side-by-side in the fertility clinic with women decades older than them.

In the end, hopefully those struggling with infertility can come together and realize that they’re all going through an emotional and difficult journey. After all, we can use all the support we can get.

(Photo: auremar/Shutterstock)

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