Let's face it: testing your fertility is scary. What if it turns out that you have no eggs at all? Or that you need to have children now? Planning if and/or when to have kids is not an easy task.
Women are having kids later
Highly educated Dutch women have their first child at the age of 34 on average. According to Statistics Netherlands, on average, university-educated women in the Netherlands have their first child at the age of 34.
Also, 27% of educated dutch women never have children, of which more than half of whom wished they had tried for kids before their biology hit the pause button. This means 1 in 8 women you know won't have kids - and that's not by choice.
Yes, you can go and say 'if it's meant to be it's meant to be'. - women have been having kids for thousands and thousands of years without any issues, but don't forget, today's woman is different than a woman from 50 years ago, where the average woman becomes a mother at 24.3 years old.
Our world has changed, but unfortunately, our biology has not. Getting pregnant is not at all like a walk in the park. 1 in 6 couples faces fertility problems. The first instinct would be to try IVF. IVF is a great option, but did you know that it actually works mainly with young eggs.
For instance, a 30-year-old woman has a 60% chance of getting pregnant after 2 rounds of IVF while for a 40-year-old healthy woman, that chance of success via IVF is less than 15%.
Biologically speaking, 22 is the ideal age to give birth, but let's face it - how many of us are ready to have kids at that age? We have barely started our careers by then. In today's world - we meet our partners later, we want to travel, we buy houses later, and we want to build a solid career. It's just not easy to have a kid early and still do everything we want.
So it seems like we don't really have much of a choice in when to have a kid - if we want to build a career and enjoy life, having a kid at 22 might not be the best.
Every person is different, there's no right or wrong choice. Everyone should assess what is important to them and decide what is best for her. There are, however, some data points (your ovarian reserve, your risk of blocked tubes, your ovulation, and your thyroid health) you can look at to see how your body and fertility compare to the average women. This is not about getting false security, it's about assessing your fertility risk profile so you can make a better choice.
Here are our top three reasons for why it's important to be proactive about your fertility:
1. Acting earlier is always better
It sucks but fertility does decline with ages. If you are able to find out if you have a higher risk profile for infertility, you can take that into account, and plan to freeze your egg or have kids sooner.
We are born with a set number of eggs and the number of eggs reduces as we grow older. On top of that, the quality of our eggs also decreases with age.
For a 25-year-old woman, 75% of her eggs are healthy. For a 40-year-old woman, that is only 15%. This means that the chance of getting pregnant naturally or via treatment are higher for younger women.
Knowing that something might be doesn't mean that you must act on it. No one decision fits all women - the best person to make that decision is yourself.
In the case of ovarian reserve, a diagnosis of a low ovarian reserve ('few eggs') would mean differently to different women. If you do not have such a strong desire to have children or you only wish to have 1 child, then it likely won't make a huge difference if you wait a few years. On the other hand, if you wish to have a bigger family, you can choose to start trying earlier or even freeze your eggs. If you are under 34, one round of hormone stimulation should produce enough healthy eggs while women over 35 might need a few more rounds of hormone stimulation to produce enough eggs. More rounds mean more expenses and more demands for your body. In these cases. Early planning is the better choice.
No one can tell you whether you would regreat having or not having children - only you can. Your body. Your data. Your choice. Don't let anyone else make that decision for you!
2. It often takes years to get your body regulated
You might have symptoms in your teenage years where you experienced irregular periods, excess hair growth, or weight gains, but have no idea why as the majority of women only find out she has PCOS when trying to conceive. If you're 36 and actively trying to get pregnant with your first child, 2 years is a long time - it's a time you don't want to waste. The same goes for thyroid abnormalities (1 in 6 women) or blockage in fallopian tubes.
One of the reasons why PCOS and other conditions are not diagnosed earlier is because of our hormones are suppressed when we are contraceptions. Don't get us wrong, we are incredibly grateful for the pill and other forms of birth control (hello feminism), but it does mean that we won't get a clear picture of where our picture stands.
When you finally find out some hormones are out of balance, the immediate next step is to try to get them to normal. With PCOS, you can get period (ovulation) under control by following certain diets, quitting smoking, losing weight, and/or testing different types of medication. but that often takes a couple of years.
The good news is women with PCOS often end up having as many children as average, but it does mean you're on the road for quite a few years longer.
It is a bit less stressful to work on your body when you do not feel the time pressure yet.
Here's the brave (& happy) story shared by victoria secret Romee Strijd with her experience with PCOS and pregnancy.
3. Getting your data earlier means you can see the specialists earlier
In the Netherlands, you must be ill before you are referred to a specialist.
In the world of fertility, a couple is only diagnosed with fertility challenges after trying to have a kid for 12 months (6 months if the female partner is 35 or older.)
This process can and should be changed. If you have information that you have a low ovarian reserve, an indication for PCOS, or a high risk for blocked fallopian tubes, you can go to your GP sooner and get the ball rolling.
Several Grip women were sent home by their GP, and only after they had a Grip report with abnormal results did they receive a referral to a specialist.
By getting information about your body now, you can potentially save precious time.
You might ask - why is healthcare not simply designed for women who are trying to have kids. Great question, it's probably the same reason that women pay more for the same razor blades than men. Or that women are 73% more likely to be seriously injured in a car accident because seat belts have only been tested on male dummies.
Access to affordable medical laboratories is fairly new. Lab tests used to be much more expensive, which made personalizing healthcare a lot more difficult.
With Grip, at 159 euros, it is now possible to gain insight into where you stand in terms of fertility. We hope that it will become increasingly easier for women to get insight into their fertility, and that health insurers will soon reimburse this.
Until then, we must take matters into our own hands. The last thing we want is to scare young women into thinking that they need to have kids right away or put pressure on women to think about kids, but deciding if and when you want to have kids is one of the biggest decision a woman will make in her life, and it's time we make that decision with data.