Huh, Infertile? What?? I know. The headline seems somehow wrong, does it not?
I’ll repeat the words slowly so you have time to wrap your head around them:
It’s mind-blowing mostly because we are not programmed to view infertility from this angle. This conundrum first came to light in working with a colleague on an education initiative.
The fact that any of us are here — through random human reproduction — is actually quite the marvel.
Let’s take this infertile concept further with a little math. Story problem, any one?
The reproductive age of women is generally accepted to be 15-44. If a woman in that age band happens to cycle once a month each of those 29 years then there are only 348 days in her life where she could technically conceive. Further, women are only ever fertile for a very, narrow window some 12 hours in any given monthly cycle.
I don’t know about you, but as of my 52nd birthday earlier this year I’ve logged more than 18,980 days on this planet — not to mention a few leap year days. One of my oldest friends, Sandy, was born the same year. She delivered three children. Me, none. Both of us, though, were only ever technically fertile 0.0183350895679663 percent of the time we’ve been alive.
The numbers don’t lie. They firmly establish that for all of us the infertile days in our lives dominate.
One has to wonder how we have been so brainwashed into thinking we’re fertile by default.
The Rise of Reprotech
Consider that an estimated 2,300 repro tech clinics now operate in 56 countries today. Those most in a position to profit from selling treatments have succeeded in embedding two often competing narratives into our culture. The first narrative: IVF is the magic elixir and 2) infertility is a modern day health crisis. Both narratives lead to, yes, more treatments. It goes without saying that with so much at stake reprotech practices and claims merit greater scrutiny.
By and large we modern women are engineered the same way women for millennia before us were. The only difference is how we perceive our fertility. The first study out of Chapman University on fertility awareness among American undergraduate university students in 2012 revealed a shocking lack of knowledge:
Dr. Peterson, an expert in infertility, and the lead author on the study, notes, “The findings from this study show that while undergraduate university students in our sample believed they are educated about fertility issues, they consistently overestimate the ages at which fertility declines in women, as well as their chances of success if they used fertility treatments to achieve pregnancy.”
The announcement about the study warned, “American college students lack fundamental awareness of reproductive issues as well as the impact of age on fertility—overestimating their chances to get pregnant at ages when pregnancy is unlikely. For example, young people see celebrities having children into their 40’s and conclude that they can wait and ‘simply’ get fertility treatment to get pregnant later in life.”
Knowledge about fundamental biology and our own unique physical makeup has never been more critical — especially since we can’t rely on fertility clinics to separate marketing hype from the reality.
5 thoughts on “All Women Are Infertile Most of Their Lives”
Glad to contribute to your thought process on this post ;) and love the way it all unfolded. :) I too was/am amazed that anyone ever winds up with a real live baby, when I started learning/thinking about everything it takes to get (& STAY) pregnant and successfully give birth. Of course, when everyone around you seems to be pulling off this amazing stunt, not just once but often multiple times, it can really do a number on your self-esteem. :p That said, I totally agree with you that time can really help in developing a whole new perspective on things.
I’d never thought about it before, but my first thought is that this title is so true! My second thought was that I’m somewhat of an overachiever in the infertile category thanks to my assclown ovaries, so I get to be infertile for a few years longer than average. Glad they could be top of the class for something!
I love Elizabeth Gilbert. I read her musings on quitting versus surrendering several times and then I had to chew on it for a bit, but it made me realize that maybe, just maybe, I’ve surrendered at least a little bit of all of this infertility crap. How do I know this? Because I’m happy. Genuinely happy. And it’s been probably five years since I’ve felt this way consistently.
There is too much (obviously unrelated) value and worth connected with fertility and especially our gender. What a useful perspective this post offers! Kind of makes the shuddering connotations associated with the word infertile seem even more ridiculous than they already are.
Thanks for the mention!
I’d also never thought about it before this way. As Loribeth has written – I am amazed too that anyone ever winds up with a real live baby,
Thanks for sharing my second oldest guestpost (written exactly 4 years ago). It is interesting to read old thoughts. Yes, we’ve shared many happy days together in the four years since.
And I am looking forward to all the happy days together in the future. It’s been already 6 months since we met for the last time. Another month. And then we can start planning something new :)
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