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'How Old Is Too Old?': OBGYN Shares Her Fertility Struggles

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Roughly one in eight couples experience infertility. The Mayo Clinic says that's 10-15% of all couples in the United States.

As an OBGYN, talking about pregnancy is part of Dr. Erin Stevens' job. But she also fields questions about not getting pregnant.

"One of the big questions people tend to ask is how old is too old?" said Stevens. "I'm definitely hearing it more that people are asking me about it."

It's a part of her job, until it became a part of her life.

"I was 31 when we first started trying," said Stevens. "Initially I was excited, I was super happy. And then as time went on that happiness and excitement kind of goes away and it starts to become really scary."

Progress, and then more setbacks.

"That was the deepest darkest hole I've ever been in, going through a miscarriage," said Stevens.

And she isolated herself.

"Even my mom didn't know what was going on," said Stevens. "I was very, very private about it, and I wish I hadn't been because that made it so much harder."

All the while, she knew her struggle was not uncommon.

"As women, every year that we get older our fertility goes down a little bit. After 35 is one of our steeper declines, and then after 40. But I always tell patients someone can struggle at age 25 and then their friend can get pregnant easily at 45, so age isn't the only factor," said Stevens.

Dr. Erin Stevens
Dr. Erin Stevens (credit: CBS)

She says in her office she has noticed a shift: many putting off families until they're older.

"Because age is such a big factor in fertility, we're seeing more people that are then needing more assistance with that," said Stevens.

Egg freezing costs thousands. IVF costs tens of thousands. The procedures are invasive and emotionally taxing, said Stevens. And insurance for these procedures is spotty.

"There are lots of insurance companies that won't cover anything when it comes to fertility," said Stevens. "There are some insurance companies that are great and they will cover everything and that's wonderful. I'm seeing that a little bit more there are some companies that will otherwise front the cost for that. I think that's amazing."

For Dr. Stevens? Baby two is on the way, and her daughter Lorelei is happy and healthy.

"It's the best," said Stevens.

But she wants others to know it's important to plan early and ask questions often, and to reach out for support if the road gets bumpy. She says it's a path better traveled with a little support.

"I try to make sure people know this is a normal thing to happen and there's ways to help," said Stevens.

Click here to find a local support groups for people going through an infertility journey. And click here to read Dr. Stevens' blog.

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