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How a hormone test changed the way I think about fertility

How a hormone test changed the way I think about fertility

5 min read

Fertility could be top of mind or on the back burner for now — but it has the power to impact everything. We’re sharing your stories to both celebrate and create space for the many ways we navigate our careers, relationships, and finances in relation to our reproductive health. If you have a story to share, get in touch.

Tech recruiter and mom Jenieze Herman believes in advocating for her health. So, when she discovered her FSH levels were slightly high, she was driven to learn more about her family medical history. Turns out, her mom struggled with infertility. Ultimately, Jenieze decided to move up her timeline for having a baby.

When you’re young, you think you’re invincible and that you have plenty of time to plan for your future. I got married in my mid 20s — at a time when none of my friends were married or talking about having children. (They were still mourning the loss of FourLoko!) My husband and I always knew we wanted to be parents, but weren’t prioritizing it quite yet. It was a very future us thing.

I started taking birth control when I was 13 years old because of ovarian cysts, so my reproductive health had always been on my mind. But I never really considered my ability to have a child. As the years passed into my 20s, I started hearing more and more stories about women who had trouble conceiving. This previously far-off idea of infertility was becoming a reality for so many people I knew. One couple I knew had tried for a year and a half before conceiving — I didn't want to find myself in that situation. It was around this time that I heard about Modern Fertility. I thought, “Hey, why not be more prepared and get some info about my body?”

I took the Modern Fertility test at age 25 and found out I had higher-than-average levels of follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH — the hormone responsible for follicle growth, egg development, and estrogen production). The results told me that if I were to try in-vitro fertilization or egg freezing in the future, my doctor may expect to retrieve slightly fewer eggs than average in a treatment cycle. For the first time, I was faced with the idea that having children might not be as easy as I thought.

I talked to my mom about my results and was shocked to find out that she had significant trouble conceiving — something she had never shared with me before, even though we have a really open relationship. She saw her fertility issues as a cellular fluke: She didn’t fully understand them, so she didn’t understand how to communicate them to me. Women from her generation called their periods “Aunt Flow,” and fertility was something that you either “had” or “didn’t have.” Doctors told her it would be pretty much impossible for her to conceive again after having me, but she got pregnant with my sister 11 years later — a total accident. I hadn’t known her infertility was why there was such a big age difference between us until then. I have a lot more sympathy for my mom now, and feel bad that she didn’t have access to information about her body earlier in life, like I did.

Finding out that getting pregnant could be at all complicated took me (and my husband) by surprise. In middle school, you learn that sperm-meets-egg — bada bing bada boom: you’re pregnant. Then, when you’re a teenager, all you learn is how to prevent getting pregnant. Once you become an adult and you actually want to get pregnant, you discover it's not always that straightforward.

I found out about my body and my mom’s story at a time when infertility was becoming more out in the open and less taboo. There were more headlines, more available statistics, and now I had more data about my body. Before that, as much as I hate to admit it, I could feel my biological clock ticking — but with this information, I could actually see each “tick tock.” Taking the Modern Fertility test allowed me to confront a fear that I didn’t even know I had. I felt a little guilty knowing that we were changing our timeline because of my anxiety, but my husband was very supportive. (Which really helped, because I didn’t have any friends who were going through the same thing and it was super isolating.)

I learned that being young doesn’t always mean there’s unlimited time to have children. If I hadn’t been able to test my hormones in such an accessible way at home, I don’t know if that would have clicked for me. Things can’t always end up the way you expect them to. After getting my results, I spoke with an OB-GYN. And since my husband and I already knew we wanted to have kids, we decided we’d start trying when I was 26. But we ended up conceiving accidentally before the “official” trying even began!

Jenieze Herman and her husband.

The info about my hormones took the guesswork out of whether or not we were jumping into parenthood too young — it made me feel secure in our decision to move up our timeline for having a baby. Now I have a 5-month-old, and I feel like we have ample time before we need to start trying for our next child. We don’t have to be so obsessed with thinking about when my egg count and quality will go down. We can focus more on life, which is nice.

Being pregnant and giving birth was probably the most out of control I’ve ever felt over my reproductive system. My body just did everything on its own. There was one moment when I woke up and thought, “My body made a pancreas last month. That’s weird.” Despite the ovarian cysts and the period cramps, and all of the minutiae of the day-to-day physical hardships of being a woman, you realize that our bodies do things without us even having to think about it. There's a lot of magic and beauty in that mystery — but it’s important to learn as much as we can about what’s really happening inside of us so that we can take back some of that control. It's very freeing to know that when you make informed decisions about your body and let the rest go, your life can actually be very calm. The general hum of anxiety around my fertility has gone away for me.

People don't always trust women. But women trust women, and women trust themselves. We have to practice flexing that muscle so that it gets stronger. Then, the world will learn to trust women, too. The earlier we can help girls feel in control of their bodies, and know it’s not taboo to ask certain questions — and that we owe it to ourselves to ask those questions — the more informed women will be overall. I think that's the best thing we can do.

Personal essay by Jenieze Herman, edited by Sarah duRivage-Jacobs

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