BEACHWOOD Ohio --
It seems simple. You grow up, get a job, settle down and have a family when you are good and ready.
But, a growing number of women are finding out the hard way that they are infertile.
Dr. James Goldfarb, Director of Infertility at University Hospitals, says there are a number of factors that can prevent a woman from getting pregnant.
Some women can become infertile in their 20s or 30s and not even know it until they begin trying to have a baby.
“It’s unbelievably emotional,” said Dr. Goldfarb, “And I think unless people have gone through it, they don’t realize how stressful this is.”
Especially for women like Michelle Appell, who began trying to start a family with her husband Jamey when she was in her late 30s.
“I figured I’d find somebody and get married, and a couple years later have a baby, no problem,” said Michelle, “But it all got delayed because I got married later in life.”
Michelle still did not worry about conceiving. After all, every day in the news and tabloids, she saw a slew of Hollywood women having children in their 40s. Nicole Kidman was 41 when she got pregnant. Halle Berry was 42, and Kelly Preston had a baby at age 47.
“I figured, no problem,” said Michelle.
But she soon learned that just like the movies, those Tinseltown pregnancies were probably not as easy as they were reported.
“I think it’s the best kept secret,” said Michelle.
However, a simple round of blood tests could help women track their fertility throughout their adult lives.
“Certainly if someone was 25 or 30, we could get those tests, and if there is no problem, we’d say, 'No hurry to do anything,' ” said Dr. Goldfarb, “And if they’re not favorable, you could talk to them about freezing eggs or things like that.”
The first simple blood test is called the FSH test, which measures a woman’s hormone called the Follicle Stimulating Hormone, which is put out by the pituitary gland and stimulates the ovaries to make eggs and estrogen.
Dr. Goldfarb says, “It’s sort of like a thermostat stimulating a furnace. If it’s making heat, it comes back that it’s alright.”
A low FSH number is considered good, but a high number can indicate peri-menopause or menopause.
Dr. Goldfarb says the only challenge with the FSH test is that it can be inconsistent. However, he says a second blood test is much more reliable.
“You can draw a anti-mullerian hormone, which is a newer test, but right now it’s better than the FSH,” said Goldfarb.
With this test, a high number is positive and a low number can indicate trouble.
But despite those tests, Dr. Goldfarb says age is still the biggest factor for most women.
The vast majority of women 35 years of age and younger should not have a problem getting pregnant.
In Michelle’s case, she finally conceived twins after four IFV or In Vitro Fertilization procedures.
“We were both crying and excited about it,” said Michelle.
She wants other women to experience the same joy, and now encourages women to talk to their doctors early and often.
She doesn’t encourage women to have children before they are ready, but says, “There is no harm in finding out how you are with your levels and prepare yourself.”
She says women need to take control of their health before it’s too late.