Like a lot of women in their early twenties, having kids was the last thing on Kyra Phillips’ mind as she worked her butt off to become a news anchor at CNN. When she finally landed the job at 30, she felt like a badass…until she realized that focusing on her career might have put her at a disadvantage for her next goal: having kids.
“As a young woman, I made lot of sacrifices—love, marriage, and children—to work my way up the ladder,” says Phillips. “But suddenly, all my friends were having kids.” No matter how far off it seemed, she wondered if she should have been thinking about that and her career.
A decade later, when she finally did get pregnant through IVF, it was a crash course in fertility, and she realized that all that info would have been much more valuable back when she could have done something about it.
“I wanted to do something to empower women at a young age so they could avoid the mistakes that I made,” she says. Her book, The Whole Life Fertility Plan (co-written with Jamie Grifo, MD, PhD, the program director of the New York University Fertility Center), arms you with sage “shoulda, coulda, woulda” advice to bring to your gyno, whether kids are imminent, or just on the “someday” plan.
1. First things first, be (very) honest. It’s so tempting to gloss over that time you had unprotected sex or your extra glass of wine at night, but your trip to the doctor shouldn’t be a highlight reel of your good behavior. “You need to talk to your doctor about everything—STIs, abortions, the real number of drinks per week,” Phillips says. “Your future family could depend on these blunt conversations.”
2. Find out how birth control is—or isn’t—affecting your fertility. Just because you don’t want kids now, doesn’t mean you want to do anything to jeopardize your chances of having them in the future. So bring up your birth control options—and how they work down the road—with an actual expert (and no, your best friend isn’t one just because her sister had twins).
3. Consider an ovarian reserve test. “It’s a very easy blood test that approximates how many eggs you have left in your stash,” Phillips says. “If you find out if you don’t have a lot, you can start thinking about freezing them,” she says. It’s not a reason to panic: the earlier you know, the more proactive you can be about your options.
4. Check your Follicle Stimulating Hormone, or FHS, level. FHS is one of the main hormones that helps you produce eggs, and it rises as you near menopause, making it harder to conceive. For some women, it can spike when they’re still in their twenties and thirties. “Learning you have high FHS when you’re younger gives you more options,” says Phillips.
5. Be willing to say, “It’s not you, it’s me” with your doctor. Think of your relationship with your OB/GYN in your twenties like casually dating: if you’re not really into him or her, it’s time to explore your options. “I changed gynecologists a number of times, because I felt they weren’t listening or being sensitive to my needs,” Phillips says. “Don’t feel like you have to stick with the same one.” Once you commit to having a kid together, it gets…well, more complicated.—Molly Gallagher
For more information, check out The Whole Life Fertility Plan
(Photos: splitshire.com, Kyra Phillips)