What To Expect When You're Not Expecting

Someone needs to give Khloe Kardashian a break. That woman has some serious patience with her mother. She’s a good sport when Kris openly calls Kim her favorite daughter. She deals with Kris’s scrutiny about her weight. I’m not a rabid Kardashian fan like many people (mainly because I can’t figure out what channel E! is with my cable subscription), but from the episodes I’ve seen, Khloe is easily the nicest Kardashian. It seems particularly cruel then that she’s having difficulty becoming a mother herself. On the recent season finale, Khloe learned that she has not been ovulating, rendering her currently unable to get pregnant. It looks like we’ll have to wait until the next season to find out if it’s treatable, but here’s hoping the Kardashians find a way. Watching MTV and TLC programming gives the impression that getting pregnant is as easy as breathing. Whoever thought that E! was going to be the channel to bring some counterbalance?

When most females in their teens and twenties have thoughts about children, those thoughts are generally how to avoid having them. The thought rarely enters your mind, “What if the time comes when I want kids, and I can’t?”

It crossed my mind earlier than many girls my age. During my junior year abroad in Spain, a friend’s host dad claimed to have a flawless record of predicting the number and gender of anyone’s future children. The prognostic experience involved placing a silver string on one’s palm and observing the direction of its movement. It was obviously all very scientific. My friends were all excitedly putting their palms out, being told they’d have two boys or a boy and a girl or three girls and a boy. I was somewhat hesitant. My grandmother struggled with infertility. My mom had cervical cancer. It didn’t seem like a whole lot of lady luck in my family history, so I went last. What happened when the silver string was placed in my hand? It stopped dead. No movement, zero children. I know the method was ridiculous and in no way based on scientific fact, but it still reduced me to tears.

That thought, no matter how fleeting, of “what if I can’t” is jarring. The idea of not being able to have children feels unfair. The years we spend annoyed and worried about periods could be for nothing?

When discussing infertility, the first and biggest question is usually, “Why?” But before getting into why infertility happens to some women, let’s talk about what it really is. Infertility is the failure to become pregnant after one year of regular sex sans protection. A whole year without condoms, the pill, IUD, etc. and no babies. So why does it happen?

According to the National Infertility Association, about 10% of all couples deal with infertility. The association’s website goes on to explain, ‘Approximately 30% of infertility is due to a female factor and 30% is due to a male factor. In the balance of the cases, infertility results from problems in both partners or the cause of the infertility cannot be explained.’ Thanks, science. Glad to know that sometimes it’s just a big ole mystery why nothing is cookin’ in the oven. I kid.

The reality is there are common risk factors for infertility. They are: weight, age (over 35), sexually transmitted diseases, tubal disease (blocked or damaged fallopian tubes), endometriosis (cells from the uterus growing in other parts of the body), DES exposure (scary fertility drug used from the late ‘30s to early ‘70s), smoking (as if anyone needed another reason to quit) and alcohol.

While that list might seem somewhat long, it’s also filled with options. Weight can be monitored. Smoking and alcohol intake can be controlled. We can’t stop time from passing and our biological clocks along with it, but we can get informed about risks that come with age and plan. Even endometriosis, which by some estimates accounts for 30% of infertility cases, rarely means that conception is 100% impossible. What these risk factors mean is that all women—regardless of age, weight, family history—should go to the doctor for regular check-ups and detailed discussions about their health.

If infertility is an issue, doctors can outline potential treatments. We’re lucky to live in time where so many advances have been made in women’s health. Doctors are constantly doing crazy and amazing work. Swedish doctors were just able to perform a uterus transplant. There hormonal treatments, medications to stimulate ovulation, assisted insemination, and advanced procedures like in vitro fertilization and even surrogacy. All of these steps begin with a trip to the doctor. No one likes being in those stirrups and paper gown, but we’ve got to do it, ladies. Regular visits can not only catch potential fertility issues, but potentially even prevent them.

Khloe did it. This is going to be the one time of my life when I advocate that every woman try to keep up with the Kardashians. Keep going to the doctor regularly, but in the meantime, learn more about fertility issues here and here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=21500194 Meghan McCombs

    I only catch the Kardashians when I’m at the gym, but it straight breaks my heart how people are haranguing this poor lady. I can only imagine how much pain she may be in; I hope things work out for her and her husband. And that people just leave her reproductive life to her.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=780506336 Kimberly Hirsh

    Khloe and others trying to conceive may want to check out this post at Offbeat Mama: http://offbeatmama.com/2010/09/a-guide-for-preparing-to-conceive The books mentioned there are hugely informative and provide me with a lot of hope as someone with autoimmune thyroid disease that may make it harder for me to conceive. Sometimes there are fixes that don’t involve drugs; it’s not the case for Khloe but sometimes it’s a matter of timing things right to coincide with ovulation. Check out the post and the books, because I feel so much better about my chances having read them.

    • http://thegrocerycheckout.wordpress.com Kourtney Bitterly

      Thanks for the additional info!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1100640106 Eli Nieves

    It must be so bitter sweet for her, with her sister Kourtney having another baby. I feel for her! (and their mother is terrible, i agree)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1444718209 Elisabeth Miller

    I found out earlier this year, that at the ripe old age of 32, my ovaries no longer work and my eggs are all gone. No one really knows what causes it, but there might be a hereditary factor involved. All I’ve ever wanted was to be a mom. It was a kick in the stomach to find out that becoming pregnant would never just naturally happen. I have no problems with adoption, but as a young-ish woman, I just never thought my ability to procreate would be taken away from me. The diagnosis made me feel like less of a woman. I’m coming to terms with it, but it’s not easy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=839707759 Lauren Comer Formento

    THANK YOU for bringing attention to this subject! As someone who has been trying to conceive for over two years, I know what is it like to have fertility issues (I’ve been diagnosed with “unexplained infertility”). Everyone thinks it’s SO easy to get pregnant and not a big deal. Most people don’t realize how difficult the road to motherhood can be. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the hardest, most emotional thing that I have EVER had to go through (harder than losing my dad to cancer 2 years ago). It has consumed my life, and there is not an hour that goes by that I don’t think about it. I feel for Khloe and everyone out there who has to deal with infertility. I can’t imagine having to deal with this AND be in the public eye. I wish her and everyone else the best of luck!

    • http://thegrocerycheckout.wordpress.com Kourtney Bitterly

      Good luck to you, too! I hope they are able to provide you with some clarity and answers very soon!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=753103073 Allyson Kate Mcardle

    The women in my family haven’t really had problems with fertility, but I was diagnosed with mixed connective tissue disease (sort of like Lupus) when I was 16 and I’m only 19 now, but I’m pretty worried that when the time comes, I wont be able to have kids of my own, which is what I’ve wanted since I was as child. I do feel bad for Khloe, she’s my favorite Kardashian, even though I never really watched the show and Kris really annoys me, just sayin’ :L

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