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The new face of infertility: 20-somethings

11:16 AM, Apr 28, 2012   |    comments
Candice and Michael Nigro, both 29, of Middletown, N.J., hold their 2-month-old triplets, Emma, Michaela and Hailey. The Nigros’ daughters were the result of their second effort at in vitro fertilization. / Aaron Houston for USA Today
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TTC may well be the new OMG for life as a young woman with motherhood on her mind.

TTC, in Internet-speak, means "trying to conceive." Being labeled "infertile" or discovering a partner's infertility is changing the life plans of many in their late 20s and early 30s.

"I wanted to have three children by now," says Lindsay Coser, 28, of St. Peters, Mo. "It's been very devastating because this is out of my control."

She and husband Nicholas Coser, 27, stopped using birth control when they got engaged in February 2010. They married seven months later and began trying to conceive. She saw a specialist a year ago and is now seeing another.

Coser's generation is living a different experience of infertility than the stereotypical over-35 career woman who married late. More specialists are seeing younger women, impatient to start families; often they haven't been trying a year before seeking treatment, considered standard practice under 35. They search the Internet for information, provide emotional support online and are outspoken about their disappointment as they put a new face on a topic once considered taboo.

"The older woman is sort of a myth, even though that's the public perception. Infertility affects women and men at all ages," says Barbara Collura, executive director of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, a nonprofit advocacy group. It wants to alert women in their 20s to start thinking about having kids - often not on the minds of 20-somethings, who may still be in college or grad school, unemployed, not yet partnered or not emotionally ready to become parents.

Start planning in your 20s

"The best time to have a baby is up to age 32," says reproductive endocrinologist Pasquale Patrizio, director of the Yale Fertility Center in New Haven, Conn. "After 32, fertility starts to decline and it becomes steeper very quickly up to the age of 40, when it declines very rapidly."

"The time to start planning your motherhood is ... in your 20s," says Brigitte Mueller, 43, of Los Angeles, who wrote, produced and directed a documentary airing on PBS in September called My Future Baby: Breakthroughs in Modern Fertility. It features the Fertility Clock, an age chart she co-developed with a fertility specialist to help women estimate their chances to conceive.

Mueller watched two of her sisters have trouble getting pregnant; she has frozen four eggs for possible future use.

Kids weren't on Candice Nigro's mind at 22, says Nigro, 29, of Middletown, N.J. "I just thought when I was ready, it would just happen. We figured we'd try a couple of months and we'd have a baby."

Seeing couples earlier

Nigro says she and her husband, Michael Nigro, also 29, have been married almost four years. They started trying to conceive in 2009 and found that both had conditions impairing conception. Their second attempt at in vitro fertilization, or IVF, succeeded. Their triplet daughters, Michaela, Emma and Hailey, were born Feb. 1.

Erica and Jeff Bode, ages 30 and 31, of Grand Rapids, Mich., had their son Jack, 4, through artificial insemination, also called intrauterine insemination (IUI). Married almost nine years, they tried four unsuccessful IUIs and three IVF procedures since Jack's birth. She miscarried once. "Our picture-perfect family was to have four kids by 30," she says. "We thought we'd be done" by now.

The latest federal data from 2006-08 suggest that among childless married women ages 15-29, 15 percent report fertility problems; for ages 30-34, it's 14 percent.

The chance of pregnancy for someone with no known fertility problems is about one in four or five each month, says Owen Davis, associate director of the IVF program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

"It used to be couples would come in after trying two to four years. I'm definitely seeing a majority of couples after only five months of trying, and both are fairly young," says Marc Goldstein, director of that facility's program for men and co-author of the 2010 book A Baby at Last!

Infertility also takes an emotional toll.

"Every month, it's a roller coaster of emotions," says Jennifer Hampshire, 30, of Keego Harbor, Mich., diagnosed with endometriosis. She and her husband have had four failed IUIs.

"People say to me, 'You're still young,' but I'm already past my point of being super fertile," she says. "It's a very insensitive thing to say to someone going through infertility, especially for us who are younger. I don't feel like time is on my side."

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