Today, 1 in 8
couples experience infertility, and after a woman turns 35, 1 in 3 couples are infertile. As millennials wait longer to start families, the realities of a delayed pregnancy emerge. Fertility problems, which were once taboo and hidden, are discussed more openly by many women and couples. Frankness about infertility struggles also raises awareness, and that’s encouraging millennials to be more candid about their concerns and more proactive in planning for their futures. In our survey, nearly half of millennial women (47 percent) who wanted to conceive said they were concerned about their fertility and ability to conceive. More than one-third of them proactively tracked their ovulation cycles. Women or couples will likely have to try longer to conceive the later in life they try to have a baby. However, fertility doesn’t drop off a cliff when a woman turns 35. Of those women who experience infertility, 44 percent seek treatment, according to RESOLVE
, a national fertility education and support group organization. More than half of those who seek treatment (65 percent) eventually give birth.
“Infertility is heartbreaking. When you struggle with infertility, you experience grief every month looking at the pregnancy test and seeing it’s not positive,” said Stacey Skrysak, who underwent IVF at age 33, and writes about her experience on the blog Perfectly Peyton
. Fertility problems fall equally on men and women: one-third of women and one-third of men. The final third is caused by a combination of the two sexes.
Advanced maternal age
As fertility drops with age, the risks of birth defects and pregnancy complications increase. For example, the danger of miscarriage rises
, and the risk for developing hypertension, diabetes, and preeclampsia goes up too. It’s also more likely the baby will be born prematurely or have Down syndrome or autism. Most survey participants labeled age 50 as the age at which it’s too late to have a child. That’s the same age the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)
believes doctors should discourage women from having an embryo transfer. For women, that age nears the beginning of premenopause. For men, however, fertility stretches on for many more years.
The role of male fertility
Three-quarters of the millennial women surveyed knew that many factors affect a man’s fertility. Diet, anxiety, physical activity, and alcohol and drug use and abuse play into male fertility. Only 28 percent of people in the survey knew marijuana use lowers a man’s fertility. In the last decade, marijuana use among adults has doubled
, and young adults ages 18 to 29 were the largest consumers of the drug. In fact, a recent study
published in Human Reproduction Update found that from 1973 to 2011, there was more than a 52 percent decline in sperm
concentration, and a 59 percent decline in total sperm count among men from North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Unlike women, who reach the end of fertility when they enter menopause, men are fertile longer. But still, becoming a father after age 40 comes with added risks
. Advanced paternal age increases a baby’s risk of being born with or developing autism, schizophrenia, and rare genetic disorders. After age 50, the risks climb even higher. With that in mind, Eyvazzadeh said women and men shouldn’t fall into the trap of only focusing on freezing eggs or measuring a woman’s fertility. Couples should focus as much on sperm as they do on eggs. Fortunately for men, preserving sperm is much easier — and cheaper — than freezing eggs. The total for all the fees — plus the storage — for freezing sperm is around $2,500
. In comparison, egg freezing
costs a woman around $15,000.
Fertility helicopter parenting
Parents and grandparents of millennials seem to be worried about the younger generation’s baby-making prospects, too. According to the survey, almost one-third of women with daughters, nieces, or granddaughters of child-bearing age were concerned these women were waiting too long to conceive. Almost one-fifth (18 percent) were willing to pay for an egg freezing cycle to help preserve their loved one’s fertility. That’s something both Toledo and Brahma have experienced in their practices. “Most of the patients that we’ve dealt with have the financial capability, have some sort of insurance coverage, or have a relative that wants to be a grandparent that’s paying for the procedure,” Toledo shared with Healthline.
The emergence of the intervention generation
The first children born through IUI and IVF are now old enough to be parents themselves. When these intervention methods first began, like egg freezing just a decade ago, they were extremely rare. Today, a third of millennials told Healthline they’re willing to use these fertility options to help them conceive. Donated sperm has been used for decades by women without a fertile partner, but donated eggs are a little newer to the fertility treatment list of options. Still, only 12 percent were willing to use an egg donor, and 15 percent were OK with using a sperm donor. On the other hand, they also said they wouldn’t hesitate to donate an egg to someone else who was having trouble conceiving.