Planning a Family
Waiting Too Long? continued...
"Ultimately, age matters," says Ruth Fretts, MD,
obstetrician/gynecologist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's
Hospital in Boston. "Women tend to not want to hear this. But the large,
well-designed studies show that women who delay significantly are going to have
an increased risk of infertility. Biology is sexist," adds Fretts.
"Biology just doesn't care."
At New York University Medical Center,
obstetrician/gynecologist Steven Goldstein, MD, says career women often come
into his office at age 38 or 39, perhaps having just gotten married, and
announce that they plan to wait a couple more years before having a baby.
"I find myself gulping," he says. "Particularly in women over age
40, physicians are nervous as hell that these women are flirting with disaster
by having waited. They may not get pregnant when they want to, not because they
aren't ovulating, but because the quality of their eggs has
So how long is too long to wait? "Unfortunately, there's no
test doctors can conduct that will tell you, 'You have two years,' or 'You have
four years,'" says Goldstein.
According to Fretts, women who delay childbearing often have
"more education, good jobs, and perhaps more money -- so they're socially
advantaged but biologically disadvantaged. The optimal time to have children is
really in the 20s."
Gayle Peterson, PhD, MSSW, a family therapist in Berkeley,
Calif., says that the challenge of balancing work with the desire for
parenthood is becoming very intense for many women. On the one hand, as their
biological clock ticks, they understand the need to start their family, she
says. "But lately the work environment has moved toward demanding
more overtime, especially in certain professions, and it's almost
impossible for these women to find balance."