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.