Welcome to Ask Doctor Zac, a weekly column from news.com.au. This week, Dr Zac Turner explains why the pressure is off when choosing whether or not to have kids, thanks to science.
QUESTION: Hi Dr Zac, I am getting old, and I can hear the clock ticking. I’m keen on having kids but I just don’t see it in my near future. I’m not ready right now, but I fear when I am finally ready, my body won’t be. What are my choices? – Sandra, 29, Melbourne
ANSWER: I get this type of question quite a bit in the clinic, so I will treat this response as if you were in the clinic with me.
More couples choosing no kids
Did you know adults have become increasingly unsure about having children?
It’s about one in five adults these days who will remain childless.
That’s doubled since the 1970s. And women are more likely than men to face uncertainty.
Let me just preface this by saying it is completely normal for anyone to not want children in their lifetime.
Delaying the decision
Perhaps one of the many factors as to why this is occurring is that people are unaware of their options to preserve eggs and sperm, so put off the decision altogether.
There are certainly many other reasons, including financial and the uncertainty of the future.
From climate change to pandemics, people have valid concerns, but this increased latent stress also makes it more difficult to fall pregnant.
Stress and cortisol have a range of effects on our mood, energy, libido and of course relationships and ability to conceive.
If this is you, then it’s great to talk about your concerns and get them off your chest.
It’s time to acknowledge stressors with partners, friends and family and professionals.
Think of these concerns as you would an injury or a leaky tap. Yes, you can allow time to heal them, and they might resolve themselves, but it’s better to get qualified help fast and sort them out early.
Back to babies
Over the past decade, many more options have become available and incredibly accessible – and they’re also extremely safe. I recommend you speak to your doctor for a referral.
IVF and other related services are not solely for people on the extremes of infertility.
Latest research shows that as age increases, the chance of pregnancy per egg decreases, and so it’s best to freeze as many as you can when young.
This is also a great way to literally take the added stress away from conception.
If you want to have kids eventually but not right now, there are several steps you can take to ensure you’re prepared for parenthood when the time is right for you.
I find it so confronting (and extremely humorous) when at the family dinner table a grandparent will sometimes ask, “Are you trying for a baby?”
No one likes being asked by nanna how their sex life is progressing. Put her in her place by quickly chiming in you’re not having children because of climate change uncertainty.
Communicate your plans
If you’re in a committed relationship, have an open and honest conversation with your partner about your desire to have children in the future but not at present.
Make sure you’re on the same page and discuss a timeline that works for both of you. If you don’t have a partner, discuss this with family or close friends.
Take care of your physical and mental health. Prioritise your wellbeing by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Exercise regularly, eat nutritious food and maintain a balanced routine. Engage in activities that bring you joy and help you manage stress effectively.
Freezing your eggs/sperm
Both eggs and sperm are typically healthier at a younger age, and more accessible.
Eggs can be stored for many years, and if they are then used to attempt conception, they are fertilised with sperm.
If this fertilised egg develops into an embryo, it can then be transferred to the woman’s uterus in the hope that she will become pregnant.
When the time is right
Remember, it’s perfectly valid to want to have children but not feel ready for them at this moment.
By focusing on personal growth, nurturing your relationships and preparing yourself financially and emotionally, you’ll be better equipped to welcome children into your life when the time is right for you.
Stay strong, stay healthy.
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Dr Zac Turner has a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Sydney. He is both a medical practitioner and a co-owner of telehealth service, Concierge Doctors. He was also a registered nurse and is a qualified and experienced biomedical scientist along with being a PhD Candidate in Biomedical Engineering. Follow Dr Zac on Instagram.