Describing women who get pregnant after 30 as waiting "later in life" seems like an outdated phrase. The latest statistics from the CDC confirm what we've suspected for a while: More women are choosing to delay pregnancy than ever before, and it's hardly a minority. In fact, the number of women having their first baby between the ages of 30 and 34 jumped to 21% in 2014 while 9% try to conceive after 35.
Whenever you choose to start a family, IVF patient Maryann Janezic tells MyDomaine that it's good to know your options because you never know which direction life will take. "I was very career-oriented when I was in my 20s, and I ended up meeting my husband when I was 30. I've realized that you really can’t plan a timeline for life. You never know what’s going to happen," she says.
Janezic, a dance studio owner from New Jersey, had been trying to get pregnant naturally for two years before she decided to see a specialist. "I was 34 at the time and we were just so frustrated and anxious," she recalls. After going to two fertility clinics without success, Janezic saw Thomas Molinaro, MD, at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey's Eatontown office, and through their IVF procedure got pregnant with her first child at 36.
Now, five years later, Janezic has had three children with IVF—a 4-year-old daughter, a 2-year-old son, and 15-month-old son—and has just become naturally pregnant with her fourth. Here, she shares the truths she wishes someone told her about IVF and her top advice to other moms-to-be.
Thinking about having kids in your 30s or 40s? Here's what you need to know about IVF, according to someone who has done it.
It Can Be Hard to Get Pregnant Naturally—Let Alone With IVF
One of the biggest misconceptions is that it's easy for everyone to get pregnant naturally, says Janezic. "You're scared into using protection as a teenager, and you think you're going to get pregnant the first time you have sex! So when it takes longer than you think, you start to wonder what's going on," she says. "When I started trying to get pregnant, I found out that you actually have a 6% chance naturally—that's not something we're ever really told!"
Not All Doctors Are Equal
Janezic learned the hard way that not all doctors are equal, and that it's important to do your research before choosing a specialist. "I went through two doctors before I found Dr. Molinaro and now, looking back, I realize that others were just wrong for me," she recalls. "You figure out that anyone who gets pregnant is happy with their doctor, so it can be hard to know who is really right for you."
If you're searching for a specialist, she says it's crucial to find someone who customizes the IVF process to suit your needs. "The biggest thing is that the doctor customizes everything based on what's good for you. When I saw my old doctor, there was a strict, standard schedule—everyone was doing exactly the same thing."
She also recommends searching for a clinic that does a five-day transfer, meaning they keep the fertilized embryos for five days before implanting them in the uterus. "A lot of clinics do three-day transfers, which in my experience isn't really long enough."
While Janezic admits that a doctor's success rate is important, she stresses that how comfortable you feel with them also counts. "Comfort with the doctor is so important. You have to be aware that you'll be spending time with them, and it's a process."
It Requires Surgery—but Don't Let That Deter You
While surgery might seem like a deterrent, Janezic says she was surprised by how simple and pain-free the process was. "It was actually pretty easy for me," she says of the surgery to extract her eggs. "The only part I didn't like was getting anxious coming out of the anesthetic. But apart from that, there was actually no pain, aside from slight cramping. I'd even say that menstrual cramps are worse! I own a dance studio and was literally back at work the next day."
"Knowing what I know now, I'd tell other moms to prep their finances ahead of time," she says. "You've got to be prepared." According to Forbes, one IVF cycle costs $12,000 before medications, which can add another $3000 to $5000 to the final bill. All up, the procedure can cost up to $20,000 to have one child, so it's worth taking those expenses into account to ensure you can afford to get pregnant when you're ready.
It's an Emotional Process
Sure, IVF is a tough physical process, but she says it's also important to emotionally prepare yourself. "I remember waiting to see how many eggs survived [after they were fertilied]" she recalls. "They took out 33 eggs, and I remember the numbers coming back as we counted down the days. After day one, 27 survived, and in the end, there were 12 viable embryos."
One thing that helped her stay grounded throughout the process was managing her hopes and expectations. "By the time I visited my third doctor, I'd experienced so many negatives, so I thought the first invitro was not going to work. I was convinced!" When she found out the process had worked, she couldn't believe it.
Your Health Is Important
If IVF is something that might be in your distant future, Janezic says it's still important to take care of your health now. "There's a lot to say about the way you take care of yourself. When I started IVF, I was a healthy eater, was really active, and had no underlying health problems," she says.
"I went beyond and took control of my health to make sure I had the best chance. I went 100% organic, cut out caffeine and alcohol and didn't even take ibuprofen, which can affect your uterus negatively. I swear to you, I stopped absolutely everything," she recalls. "I think those things are an important part of it. You can't just assume the doctors are going to fix everything. You have to take care of yourself now to give yourself the best possible chance."
Now, five years after having her first baby with IVF, Janezic is pregnant with her fourth child, naturally. "Who knows if I could have gotten pregnant naturally without looking after my health like I did, but I'd like to think it definitely played a role."
Have you had IVF? What are some of the most common misconceptions you'd like to dispel?