For many women, the path to motherhood is clear, and has been from a young age. There are those women who just seem to be born nurturers, casting any aspirations for self aside, and focusing on feathering a nest for her brood. These women seem eager to begin their families and never look back.
Some women know they really don’t wish to have their own children, content with lavishing nieces, nephews, and children of friends with love and attention. Neither of these women are wrong, as having, or not having a baby is a very personal decision. To understand yourself so deeply, and be committed to one option, or the other, is actually very commendable.
Then there are women-the majority, in fact-who tend to be more ambivalent about their decision to have a baby. Maybe you feel as though you do want a child of your own, but not just yet.
There comes a point in each and every woman’s life when her mailbox seems to burst with baby shower invitations, and birth announcements. The office calendar is filled with scheduled family maternity leave, and video from gender reveals take over your social media. The inevitable questions regarding your own intentions begin.
Is it Selfish to Wait?
At a certain age, or point in your life, the pressure is no doubt on. If you have a significant other, it’s likely their family, and your own, bring up the request for a grandchild at every opportunity. And if not family, then the media, which seems to barrage young women with the notion of a ticking biological clock. In fact, you may begin to question your motives for waiting. Are you being selfish?
There are many reasons to pump the brakes on starting a family, and none of those reasons are selfish when you consider a potential child is involved. In fact, with all that is necessary and vital to being fully engaged and devoted to the “toughest job in the world”, i.e. parenting, it’s very responsible to wait, if you feel the need.
The Real Role of Your Biological Clock
Unfortunately, your biological clock does play a role in your ability to have a baby when you feel ready. Simply put, the longer you put off pregnancy, the more difficult it may become for you to conceive the old-fashioned way. Moreover, if you do wait beyond age 35-40, you run the risk of your fertility being significantly compromised.
It’s a fact that women are born with all of the eggs they will have or the entirety of their reproductive years. At birth, infant girls possess 1-2 million eggs, however by the time a girl reaches puberty that number has dwindled to about 400,000. As the years pass there is a steady decline in a woman’s egg reserve, with an estimated 25,000 eggs remaining between the ages of 35-37, and less than 500 eggs as a woman reaches menopause (12 consecutive months with no period; average age is 51).
Not only is your egg reserve impacted by the aging process, but the quality of those eggs is also affected. The peak fertility for a woman is around age 25 and lasts until her early 30’s. Between the effects of aging, lifestyle, and natural age-related hormone fluctuations, the quality of your eggs begins to diminish as you near your 40’s. Your chances for a successful pregnancy decline with age. By your early 40’s the possibility of becoming pregnant without the aid of assisted reproduction is extremely low.
The good news for those women who recognize they do want to have a baby, but not just yet, is reproductive technology can help you plan for that day. As explained above, the younger you are, the better your eggs. Whatever your reason for not feeling ready just yet, rest assured you can preserve your peak quality eggs until you feel the time is right.
Egg freezing, or oocyte cryopreservation, involves the preservation of mature eggs, which have been collected following hormonal stimulation. Your healthy, viable eggs will be available when the time is right. Obviously, the younger you are, the better, however eggs retrieved at any time during your reproductive years can be preserved for later use.
Trust Your Heart
Don’t rush into pregnancy just because those around you suggest it’s time. Trust in your heart and you’ll know when the time is right. Waiting until you’re ready is far from selfish. In fact, it’s the long option.