3 things you can do today if you want to have kids in the future
3 THINGS YOU CAN DO TODAY IF YOU WANT TO HAVE KIDS IN THE FUTURE
Whether you are thinking about starting a family this year, are worried about your ability to conceive in the future, or just want to make sure you keep your options open, here are three easy-to-do but very important, proactive things you should do now to learn more about your fertility. Your future you will thank you.
1. Download a period tracker
Tracking your period on your phone can be one of the easiest ways you can learn more about your body. Simply by noting when your period starts and how long it lasts, many of these apps can tell you:
How long your cycles are
If you have regular cycles
When you are ovulating, which is when you are most likely to get pregnant
Over time, you might also begin to see patterns emerge around your energy levels, sex drive, and mood — all things that can be affected by your natural hormone fluctuations. Your doctor may also be able to use this information to help you understand irregularities — which could suggest a more serious health issue — or patterns — such as regular breast tenderness around your period — to help explain what is happening at different points of the month. Yup, there is an app for that, including your uterus.
2. Talk with your family
Did you know that many aspects of your reproductive health are encoded in your genes? In the same way that you might have your dad’s blue eyes or your grandmother’s curly hair, there are reproductive factors that may be passed down to you in your blood from your biological parents. Yet, most women don’t know their family’s reproductive history.
Talk to the women in your life who are blood-related to learn as much as you can about your family’s reproductive history. Your mother, sister, grandmother, and aunts can provide a wealth of useful information. Don’t forget your father’s side of the family! Unsure how to get started? Try this:
“Hi, [insert name]. Can I talk to you about something that is important to me? I may want to have kids one day. I read that my family history can be a good starting place for understanding what might be in store for me if I try to start a family. Can I ask you some questions about your reproductive health?”
By starting the conversation with that context, you might be surprised how open your family members are. Also, don’t be deterred if you have a family member who is less comfortable sharing this information. Each person is different.
Here are some questions you might want to ask them:
Do/Did you have regular periods?
Did you have difficulty getting pregnant?
Did you have any miscarriages?
Did you have any pregnancy complications?
When did you start or go through menopause?
Were you ever diagnosed with a reproductive condition, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?
Does our family have a history of genetic disorders, like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia?
Did you undergo carrier screening? What did you learn?
Why did you not have any children?
How old were you when you had your first kid?
Answers to these questions can tell you what might lay ahead, especially if you see trends emerge in your conversations. For example, if your dad’s sisters all had a hard time getting pregnant, then it may suggest that they share biomarkers — indications in their body’s chemistry or genetic information — that may make it harder for women on your dad’s side of the family get pregnant. Similarly, if you learn through your conversations that your mother started menopause in her early 30s, then it may suggest that you too might begin menopause earlier.
Here is what it boils down to: taking your family history can help you begin to understand directionally, what your personal fertility curve looks like. So while science tells us that the average woman’s fertility curve begins to decline around the age of 35, we all know that you are not average. You are you. So how do you know if you fall in the group whose fertility potential begins to decline after 35 or, perhaps more importantly, if your fertility curve might start to decline before 35. Armed with this knowledge, what can you do? Go to step three.
3. Talk with your OB-GYN
Once you have talked to your mom, your sister, and your aunt Linda, schedule your annual visit with your OB-GYN and bring your notes and go prepared to talk to them about more than your birth control options and pap smear — ask them about your reproductive future. Some questions to get you started:
Here is what I heard from the women in my life. What would you take away from these conversations?
I would like to have kids one day. What should I be thinking about?
Should I consider freezing my eggs?
What do my hormones tell me about my body?
What clinical or genetic tests should I be doing to understand my hormones and my reproductive potential?
If you are thinking about getting pregnant in 2017 or have been trying on your own, add these questions to your list:
I am thinking about getting pregnant in 2017. What should I be thinking about?
I have been trying to get pregnant for (insert how long you have been trying to conceive). What should I be thinking about?
Be upfront and come prepared to start the conversation with your doctor.
Now, you might be thinking, “If there were a problem, my doctor would talk to me about it. I am not going to worry until my doctor is worried.” However, here is the reality: many OB-GYNs won’t initiate these conversations. Why? Some don’t ask patients about their family building plans because they don’t want to offend or upset them. Others don’t because there are no warning signs. Hormone workups aren’t typically routine, the way other tests are, so the signals that something might be off won’t necessarily be caught during your regular check-ups.
Don’t be shy. Be your own healthcare advocate. And feel confident you aren’t alone. 75% of women want to talk to their doctors about their reproductive health. In fact, nearly 70% report feeling worried or concerned about their reproductive health today and the future so why not put your mind at ease by taking the proactive, empowered approach. You might learn that you you have nothing to worry about. If you catch warning signs early, then you can act while there is still time to do so. It is a win-win.