“I would have given anything if someone had told me: ‘Freeze your eggs. Do yourself a favor. But you just don’t think about it. So here I am today. The ship has sailed.” With these devastating words, Jennifer Anniston speaks for the first time about the fertility problems that she suffered in silence for years.
Like so many other women with infertility, she felt compelled to keep quiet. “All those years and years of speculation were really difficult. I was undergoing IVF, drinking Chinese teas, whatever, I was trying everything,” she says in an exclusive interview with Allure magazine where she confesses that “the path of making babies was challenging for me.”
“That story that I was just selfish, and that I only cared about my career… God forbid a woman be successful and not have a child… The reason why my husband left me, why we broke up and ended our marriage because it did not give him a son, it was an absolute lie. At this point I have nothing to hide, ”says the Friends star, who was married to Brad Pitt and later Justin Theroux.
And, although at 53 years old and after multiple failed in vitro fertilization attempts, she has run out of options to become a biological mother, her story can help many to have a different outcome.
Like Aniston, 1 in 5 women fail to get pregnant
Infertility is much more common than you think. In the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 women between the ages of 15 and 49 cannot get pregnant after trying for a year.
The causes are diverse and may be due to fertility problems in men. But for women, the “biological clock” is more implacable and the options are reduced over time, something that many -as happened to Aniston- are not aware.
“There is a profound misconception about the biological clock. Many do not realize how much their fertility declines with age,” says Pasquale Patrizio, director of the In Vitro Fertilization, Fertility Preservation and Male Fertility programs at this institution, in a Yale University publication.
A woman’s chances of having a baby decline rapidly each year after age 30, warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is due, in large part, to the fact that the quality and quantity of the ovules progressively decreases.
“The egg supply starts to decline most rapidly around age 37. At 43, 90% of a woman’s eggs are abnormal, meaning they have no potential for pregnancy,” says reproductive endocrinologist Chantel Cross in a Johns Hopkins Hospital publication.
Egg freezing is more effective before the age of 35
Several studies indicate that women who freeze their eggs before the age of 35 are more likely to get pregnant. In a few cases it is advisable to do it after 40.
The procedure doesn’t guarantee pregnancy, but it does help with the odds, something women like Aniston wish they had known when they were in time to consider it.
“I often talk to my patients in their 30s about this option, when the quality and quantity of eggs start to decline,” says OB/GYN Kathleen Mundy on the Houston Methodist Hospital website.
Not all consider it, need it or can afford it. Blood and imaging tests that help determine the quantity and quality of eggs can help in decision making.
“I don’t have to think about it anymore”
For Aniston, knowing that “the ship has sailed” has been somewhat liberating. “I actually feel a little bit of relief now because there’s no more: ‘Can I have them?’ I don’t have to think about it anymore.”
Surviving the media’s obsession with her motherhood helped her realize “how much we define a woman’s worth based on her marital or maternal status,” she says in a 2016 op-ed for the Huffington Post. and that opens with the phrase: “For the record I am not pregnant, but fed up with that scrutiny.”
She there she questions “the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful or unhappy if they are not married and have children”.
She in the interview with Allure she admits that she wrote it at that time “because I’m not superhuman to the point where I can let it penetrate and hurt.”
But she already has her armor and assures that that stormy stage of her 30s and 40s allowed her to become the person she is today. “That’s why I have so much gratitude for all those terrible things. Otherwise, I would have been stuck being this person who was so scared, so nervous, so unsure of who she was. And now, I don’t give a sh–a.”