Stay Free! magazine


Stay Free! Daily: media criticism, consumer culture and Brooklyn curiosities from Stay Free! magazine

Got a blog tip? Contact us

« The cloudy side of Sesame Street | Main | I'm more qualified to be an astronaut than I realized. »

But, Doctor, I want it NOW...

At age 22, Meredith Whetzel and her husband Nathan turned to fertility treatments, after four months of rigorous sodomy.

Harrowing news from the Wall Street Journal today: people in their teens and early 20s who want to have babies are seeking out fertility treatments -- after only a few months of trying to conceive. It's hard to know who to blame here, the couples or the doctors. Didn't they see Blue Lagoon?

Rather than portraying this development as strict pathology, the Journal reporter reaches to find a positive spin on it:

The eagerness of many young women to get pregnant quickly, even in the face of potential risks, reflects several societal trends. One is the striving nature of this young generation who, unlike many Gen Xers before them, seem accustomed to setting firm goals and accomplishing them.

See, I would have read this as the transformation of every possible life experience into an act of consumption. But, nope, what we've got is goal-setting here.

The many internet forums about infertility are a treasure trove of jaw-droppers: "I'm 19 yrs old and my husband and I have just started trying to conceive... how long should we wait before seeing a doctor?"

I mean, c'mon, you're 19! Just keep fucking until you are bored with each other, and then have the baby to save the relationship.

See also:
Never Too Young to Look Younger
KAGOY - Kids Are Getting Older Younger

Hearing Your Biological Clock Tick -- at Age 22
Fearful of Waiting Too Long,
Goal-Oriented Gen Y-ers Push
For Infertility Treatments
July 13, 2006; Page D1

After trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, Meredith Whetzel did what many women these days do -- she sought fertility treatment, having doctors run tests to check her hormone levels and ovary function and taking Clomid, an ovulation-enhancing drug.

Ms. Whetzel is hardly the typical woman worried about her ticking biological clock, though. She is 22 years old and had been trying to conceive for just four months.

"Even though I am young, it still seemed like time was going by so fast," says Ms. Whetzel, who runs an Internet business out of her home in Longview, Texas. "I don't want to be 35 and wondering if I can get pregnant."

For decades, fertility treatments have been primarily aimed at women in their late 30s and 40s, many of whom spent years trying to conceive before seeking medical help. But experts say women such as Ms. Whetzel -- who is now eight weeks pregnant -- increasingly represent a new face of infertility patients: young and college-educated, impatient and acutely aware that their optimum time to conceive is while they're still in their 20s.
Meredith Whetzel, age 22, and her husband, Nathan, turned to fertility treatments after trying for four months to conceive.

While these young women still represent a minority of infertility patients, their numbers are growing, thanks to an exploding fertility industry and an information blitz in the media and on the Internet about the risks of waiting too long to have children. There are little recent hard data on the trend, though, so the evidence is largely anecdotal, coming from doctors and patients alike.

From 1995 to 2002 -- the most recent year for which statistics are available -- the percentage of female college graduates 22 to 29 years of age who had received fertility treatments at some point in their lives doubled, to 23%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Survey of Family Growth. At Conceive magazine, a two-year-old publication aimed at women trying to get pregnant, 46% of readers are younger than 30 years of age (73% of the readers are younger than 35) and 86% have college degrees or higher.

Doctors say that many of these young women are seeking medical help after trying for only a few months to get pregnant. The generally accepted definition of infertility, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is the inability to conceive after 12 months of trying. "They tell me they want to make sure that everything is OK before they try for a year," says Nathaniel Zoneraich, a fertility specialist at the Advanced Fertility Care clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. He says he sees about 30% more patients in their 20s than he did four years ago, many of whom have been trying to get pregnant for as little as four months.

While fertility problems certainly can affect even young women, Dr. Zoneraich and other physicians say they will first counsel younger patients to try things such as ovulation-predictor kits and undergo diagnostic testing (including on the male partner) before turning to fertility treatments, which can have serious side effects. Clomid can cause hot flashes, nausea and mood swings, and sometimes even decrease fertility by thinning the uterine lining. Ms. Whetzel, for instance, said she experienced severe mood swings on the drug. The injectable drugs Bravelle and Menopur can sharply increase the risk of multiple births and cause abdominal pain and shortness of breath, among other effects.

In rare instances, artificial inseminations can cause severe infections. And in-vitro procedures, which involve extracting eggs from a woman, fertilizing them in a laboratory and transferring them to the uterus, can sometimes cause ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, where the ovaries are enlarged and the abdomen may fill with fluid.

The eagerness of many young women to get pregnant quickly, even in the face of potential risks, reflects several societal trends. One is the striving nature of this young generation who, unlike many Gen Xers before them, seem accustomed to setting firm goals and accomplishing them rather easily. "I want to have a baby, I know where to look on the Internet for information, and I know how to utilize the resources to have one," says 25-year-old Christy Zornes, a research coordinator at a medical center in Oklahoma City, who turned to fertility treatments after having been off birth control for just three months. Nine months later she is still not pregnant, but "it helps to know I have someone working with me," she says.

"It's the whole culture of wanting to have a baby when they want to have a baby," says Cheri Lowre, an obstetrician-gynecologist and assistant clinical professor at University of California, Los Angeles's medical school, who says she sees young women who want to plan their pregnancies around vacations or graduate school. "But getting pregnant takes time, it's not a no-brainer."

These young women also have absorbed the fertility lessons of their older relatives and friends, many of whom put off having babies until after they had finished their education and achieved a measure of success in their careers. "Clearly the 20-somethings watched the 40-somethings wait too long," says Iffath Hoskins, chairwoman of the obstetrics and gynecology department at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., who says she now sees women in their mid- to late-20s worried about infertility, while she saw none a few years ago.

Cari Elam, age 23, says she reads "tons" about infertility, both on the Internet and in books. "I see a lot of women -- including my aunts -- who waited and weren't able to have babies," she says. Ms. Elam who lives in Milford, Ohio, tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant for two years, and has spent about $5,000 on fertility treatments. She says she has asked her doctor about treatments she has read about online, and has been treated with ovulation-enhancing drugs such as Clomid, which gave her hot flashes, as well as Bravelle and Menopur. Finally, after a round of artificial insemination, she is pregnant.

There has been a flurry of information in recent years on the issue of diminishing fertility as women age, with magazines and newspapers publishing high-profile cover articles. The CDC has recently heightened awareness of fertility, as well, by issuing guidelines asking that all women of reproductive age consider themselves to be potential mothers and take appropriate health precautions.

The Internet, too, is boosting awareness of fertility issues, say doctors, with an increasing number of Web sites on the subject. Women can now read about early pregnancy symptoms at, discuss the merits of obtaining certain fertility drugs without a prescription at or chat about infertility issues in a message board for women under 25 years old at (One recent post from a 19-year-old who had just started trying to get pregnant asks: "how long should we wait before seeing a doctor?")

The rise in young fertility patients also is being driven by the growing fertility industry itself. There are now about 450 fertility clinics in the U.S., 60% more than there were a decade ago. Developments have also been made in bringing down the cost of pricey in-vitro procedures and in reducing the risk of giving birth to multiples, thereby attracting women who may have shied away from treatment before.

"You have a lot more heightening of awareness that fertility declines," says Nancy Hemenway, executive director of the International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, a nonprofit based in Arlington, Va. In 2004, when the council started to award scholarships to help women pay for in-vitro procedures, most of the women who applied were in their late 30s or early 40s and none were under 30, says Ms. Hemenway. In this latest round of 50 applicants, about 75% were under 30.

The age at which fertility declines varies from woman to woman; it generally drops off significantly 10 years before a woman goes through menopause. (The average age of menopause is 50.) Most doctors agree that women are most fertile in their 20s. After that, the loss of fertility happens on a continuum: There is a minor loss of fertility between ages 30 to 35, a moderate loss between ages 35 to 40 and a severe loss after 40.

"I am happy to see more women aware that their fertility is declining by age 33 and that they should consider attempts earlier," says William Gibbons, president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology and medical director of the Women's Center for Reproductive Medicine in Baton Rouge, La., where he says he is beginning to see patients as young as 26. "If someone hasn't conceived in a year, having them try for 10 years is not right."

Christy Harvin, a 26-year-old nurse, has been trying to have a baby since she was 20 and has had one miscarriage. She says that all the publicity about infertility prompted her to seek medical help. The first two doctors she consulted told her she was young and had plenty of time left, but after two years of trying a third doctor diagnosed her with polycystic ovarian syndrome, a hormonal imbalance that prevents her from ovulating regularly. She has since been given fertility drugs including Clomid and Provera, which have caused side effects such as vomiting, mood swings and hot flashes -- and she is still not pregnant. But "the one good thing I did do is start when I was 20," says Ms. Harvin, who lives in Genoa, Ark. "Now I have time left to try."

Posted by carrie on 07/13/2006 | Permalink


Can i be the first to say


Posted by: tch | Jul 13, 2006 12:37:30 PM

Plus there's this:,,2-2006320374,00.html
"Mum of 13 Now Wants IVF"

Posted by: ninapaley | Jul 13, 2006 2:03:18 PM

The new rebellion? "My parents waited to have me. Fuck that! I'm going for it now!"

Also: thanks for that caption.

Posted by: d | Jul 13, 2006 3:06:59 PM

im 20 my fiance and i have been tryin for 6 months to conceive.....we re not runnin to the doctor for fertility drugs but we do know our gp is very much there for us....just because im 20 does not make my heart felt longing for a baby any less than that of a 30 year old....u guys seem to think wanting a baby is all about bein in a rush to get pregnant before ur time runs its not....its about its about a loving couple desperately longing for a child of their own.its about the heart ache and tears every time ur period comes .not about ur age and a fast approaching menopause...i do not believe a 13 year old should be aided in getting pregnant in any way how ever i feel some one over 18 should be treated with respect and dignity just as a 30 odd year old would be...

Posted by: sarah | Oct 11, 2007 6:27:19 PM

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In