Women consider 'pregnancy insurance' options

Women have several options for late pregnancy

INDIANAPOLIS - More women who are of childbearing age but want to have a baby later in life are considering "pregnancy insurance," acting now to have a baby in the future.

It's a common dilemma for many women, some who have put their careers first or are waiting to find the right partner, as their fertility declines with age.

Options include using donor eggs, in vitro fertilization and freezing their eggs.

At age 38, Jennifer Jones married her "Mr. Right" and never thought about having a problem conceiving a child.

Jones couldn't get pregnant, and tests showed premature menopause was the cause. She had no eggs left.

"It's a devastating thing to have happen," Jones said. "It was probably like losing a child. I thought of each and every opportunity, if I could have had a child back then. You know, it's heartbreaking."

Jones had been career-minded, not in baby mode -- similar to many women. A recent census survey indicated that many women are waiting about four years longer to have their first child than they did in the 1970s.

With a spotlight on celebrities having children later in life, a misconception is that there aren't many issues. But doctors warn that the choice to put off pregnancy comes with caution.

"The longer you delay, you can anticipate more difficulty, not always, but it's just a probability," said Dr. William Gentry, of Advanced Fertility Group. "You're born with all the eggs you'll ever have. The older you get, your eggs are not as good."

There's truth to the so-called biological clock ticking that many refer to.

"A good number to think of is 35. I always try to equate things to ball games," Gentry said. "(Age) 30, you're at halftime. (Age) 35, you start the fourth quarter, and 40, you're in overtime. Not that you can't win in overtime, but it lets them know the urgency of it."

Jones and her husband, Mark, used an anonymous donor egg. Fertilized with Mark's sperm and implanted in Jennifer, she delivered Ethan at age 41.

"Even though it had uncertainties, it's been an exceptional option for us," Mark Jones said.

Other women are turning to in vitro fertilization, a process in which eggs and sperm are combined outside the body in a lab and placed back in the uterus.

Some women are also preserving fertility by freezing their eggs.

Liz Kelly, 34, considers career and finding the right person important, but she also wants to be a mom someday, so she decided to freeze her eggs now.

"It's very empowering," she said. "I have 22 eggs that are the age of 34."

"It seemed sort of careless of me not to take advantage of the fact that I can't stop myself from aging, I can't fall in love overnight, but I am able to stop the aging of my eggs," Kelly said.

Dr. Timothy Yeko said the option gives women insurance for their future.

"The advantage will be that even though they come back in their 40s, they're going to get pregnant like a 30-year-old if they froze their eggs in their 30s," Yeko said.

Gentry and Yeko advise women to start thinking about their futures early.

"At least entertain the thought … not that you have to intervene at that point," Gentry said. "At least think about it, because your success is going to be better at 35 than say 45."

The Jones' now have what they always wanted, and they're giving others who want to have a child later in life hope.

Fertility is different for everyone, and women should consult with their doctors if they decide to put off pregnancy until they're in their mid to late 30s or older.

There are serious issues to consider with fertility treatments, including the stress associated with it and the expense, especially considering that it's not always covered by insurance.

Freezing eggs and in vitro fertilization costs typically start at $10,000, with costs increasing with the number of cycles.

Underlying medical conditions, such as fibroid tumors and endometriosis can cause fertility problems.

Treatments are also controversial for some who take issue with the ethics of creating life in these ways. Many people encourage others to consider adoption.