Two days ago, I called my friend to cut a deal. I needed to make a partnership fast, and we have been doing business together for years. I knew she could push something through her company that would make me look good.
We ended up spending an hour on the phone, and she mentioned she was taking a four-week leave. I knew it was for fertility treatments. She couldn’t believe I knew. She had kept it a secret from everyone. She panicked that if I knew her whole office would know.
Here’s how I knew: Because women with high-powered jobs don’t take four weeks leave. You don’t get a high-powered career by going on leave. But at some point, even in a high-powered career, fertility issues start trumping career issues: When it’s four weeks off a big job, it’s fertility.
I have a lot of friends who went through fertility treatment. So I gave my friend the name of another friend who currently sports bruises all over her body from injections, and then I said, “Hey, I know you’re crying, but push my deal through before you go on leave.”
Let me tell you about my friend who did not wait to have kids—the friend who is genius girl, and great at planning, and a rock star at work, and is doing a startup while she has a young child. She is one step away from being hospitalized for exhaustion. Really. Her thyroid is breaking down from her relying too heavily on adrenaline.
Among my friends who are women, the majority have had fertility problems.
Every friend has a different story, but there is one theme that has dominated every friend’s trials and tribulations: A lack of control. We can control so much of our lives today. And women who are in high-powered careers are usually the best at controlling their lives.
It’s a shock to find out that fertility is so hard to control because it’s so important. So it’s no surprise that there’s an industry developing that helps women control their fertility.
Please, please do not read the rest of this post thinking that holding off getting pregnant til your mid thirties is a good idea. Statistically it is a very bad idea if it’s important to you to carry your own child. There is no science magic that makes a mid-life pregnancy a low-risk endeavor, but here are three things you can do in your twenties and early thirties to decrease the risk of a high-risk pregnancy.
1. Get a husband. I know, this is not popular advice, but it’s practical advice. A husband is like a career. If you are not looking for one, you’re not likely to find one. If it’s not a high priority goal, it’s probably not a goal you will meet. So if you want to make sure you’re making babies with your own healthy eggs, think of your twenties as the time to find a mate.
2. Freeze your eggs. If you don’t want to exert control over your life by finding a husband, how about using control over your life to save some good eggs? The Wall Street Journal reports that even though it’s not actually proven technology, women are signing up in droves. The treatment is expensive—up to $14,000—but often that’s peanuts to women who will spend their most fertile years climbing corporate ladders.
3. Test your eggs for premature aging. Yep. That’s right. Eggs age differently in different women. And the aging process could get faster or slower relative to the general population. This means that while most women need to start having babies before age 35 to manage risk well, some women need to start earlier.
If you want to know if your eggs are aging fast, go to Repromedix to find out if you can be part of the company’s limited rollout of a new test for eggs. The results combine the magic formula of your age, your eggs, and the amount you have of two specific hormones in order to come up with your age in fertility years.
When I was 30 I did not have a boyfriend. I hired a dating service for 10K, (which at the time was the best way to deal with my ticking clock) and the guys who were coming up were great investors for my company and lousy husband prospects. (Except for the Calvin Klein model. He was not a good husband or a good investor. He was totally ridiculous.) At that point, I was making a ton of money, and I could have afforded a lot of this stuff. If I had known about it, I would have done it.
If you have the money, and you don’t have ethical problems with it, maybe you should do it. You never know where you will fall in the fertility lottery: Hedge your bets the best you can.