Today we’re launching a free tool that makes the data that women should have always had access to––more accessible. In 2018, we see celebrities getting pregnant at 40 and 50 without the full story of what went into it, and we hear about the mysterious “fertility cliff” from our doctors and family. For decades, the leading tools we’ve had for family planning are the condoms and diaphragms we find in drug store aisles. Yes, preventing pregnancy is so important for women. But what happens when we're ready to start getting pregnant? Now, the Modern Fertility Timeline Tool makes fertility data available to women and physicians so that we can have better inputs into our planning.
Why did we build a fertility timeline tool?
Prevention can’t be a stand-in for planning––especially at a time when millenial women are waiting longer than any other generation in the history of the US to start their families. This delay is happening for a lot of reasons (more blog posts on this forthcoming!) but the biggest enabler is that now women have (rightful) control over our reproductive timelines (hello birth control!). Despite this amazing invention, our reproductive biology has not changed. The science around baby making using Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is improving, but we still don’t have a way to stop the inevitable biological clock. These treatments can help but they are not a guarantee and for most, they are prohibitively expensive.
At Modern Fertility, we get questions and comments every day from women like, “I wish I could tell someone when I want to have kids and how many, and see if my fertility lines up with those goals.” Or “I still have a few more years right?” One percent of women can still have kids at 50, but 99% of women cannot. There is still a lot of chance involved in fertility, but as women, we should have the option to understand what those rates look like over the course of our reproductive career. The rates of involuntary childlessness are increasing, and while there is more fertility research and data being published and put to work for women to help reverse this trend, it’s often tucked behind paywalls in scientific journals or in confusing tables.
We developed the fertility Timeline Tool to allow women to easily access this research data.
How the Timeline Tool works
TLDR: Head to Modernfertility.com/timeline, add your current age, the age you think you might want to have your first or next kid, the number of kids you would like to have, and the time you’d like to have in between each. The first 3 things the timeline tool will tell you are:
- Rate of natural fertility for each age
- If you get pregnant, rate of miscarriage for each age
- And if you have the child, chance of the most common birth defect that is linked to maternal age
As you explore the tool you’ll also learn how menopause timing can affect family planning (especially as we wait longer to have kids). You’ll be able to see:
- Onset of the menopausal transition (a 10 year period before menopause when fertility declines)
- Average age of menopause (51 in the US)
There are better predictors of future fertility than just natural fertility data alone––your hormones. So we allow you to toggle through hormone information so you can understand how hormones act as fertility detectives for your timeline. You can toggle through different levels of:
- Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH)
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
- Estradiol (E2)
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
- Free T4 (fT4)
- Prolactin (PRL)
- Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
- Testosterone (T)
All of this data is based on averages (and we are sure to make it clear––no woman is an average!) but it serves as a (free), grounding foundation for understanding how fertility changes with age and hormone levels. If you choose to take the Modern Fertility hormone test, you can get a more personalized look into your timeline beyond just age––including information on menopause onset, ovarian reserve (how many eggs you have waiting in the wings) and other red flags. You also get the full support of a team––three physicians that review every result, a 1:1 consult with a fertility nurse, and access to our weekly “Egginars” and Modern Women Community. Hormones can’t 100% predict fertility, but they can give you better indications of what to expect than just guessing based on age alone.
The best datasets, built-in
The Modern Fertility Timeline Tool synthesizes the best datasets available for natural fertility, miscarriage and Down Syndrome (one of the most common birth defects that is linked to maternal age) in one place. For those of you who like data as much as I do, we put together an awesome blog post outlining our process for finding the best data sets for the Modern Fertility Timeline Tool––definitely worth a read.
The biggest challenge here? Finding the data sets themselves. It may come as a surprise that today, when data seems to be everywhere, fertility data is difficult to come by. The reason fertility data is behind is because of birth control. In a society where the norm is pregnancy prevention, it can be exceedingly difficult to measure fertility rates over time – it's that same idea that prevention doesn't equal planning. We are very excited, today, to be sharing the work of hundreds of hours of research and conversations with physicians to make sure that we are bringing you the best data. We worked closely with Reproductive Endocrinologists and OB/GYNs––who see the impact of these numbers IRL every day––to synthesize this data and provide, as we always do, human-speak interpretation.
The other major challenge was making sure we were giving women a realistic picture of fertility. Dr. Alan Copperman, MD director of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Mount Sinai Hospital, agrees. In a great conversation, he walked us through the data, explaining that 12% of women are infertile at 35. We hear that fertility declines at 35. But 12% of women with this diagnosis? It’s pretty shocking. We need to be talking about this more––and we need resources to reflect it.
More work to do
While our first iteration of the Timeline Tool takes natural fertility rates and hormones into account, there are many more facets to fertility in our modern world––and much more data to include. For one, fertility treatments like IVF––although they are not federally reimbursed and are not a guarantee–– can help men and women become pregnant who otherwise would not be able to conceive. And procedures like egg freezing can potentially extend a woman's childbearing years. IVF outcome data has become more available in the last decade and we can factor it into our overall family planning. Another component of painting a modern picture of fertility is understanding the multitude of factors that go into it (fertility 101!) and how they’re changing. Everything from male fertility to lifestyle factors, to changes in BMI and smoking––research is evolving on every one of these fronts and we’re committed to contributing to and incorporating it into tools for women in the future.
A free tool for every woman
I’m waiting until later in life to start my family. I feel fortunate that working in the fertility space early in my career gave me a lens into the reactive side of fertility––so that I could start thinking proactively. But during my time doing research into fertility clinics, I met women on their second and third IVF cycle who never knew what their timelines might look like––who wished they would have had more information, earlier. When we postpone, we also need to plan––and we need all the facts to do it. Hopefully this free tool can help us get out of the internet black hole and put natural fertility data sets in one place and give women a place to start.
We also fully realize that natural fertility is only one way to start a modern family and having a family today means SO many different things. We hope, though, that an easy-to-use representation of reproductive health can in some way be helpful for thinking through––or creating empathy for––any and all approaches to family building.
We are proud that Modern Fertility is pushing fertility research forward, but we also know that research takes time, and women need more tools now to understand natural fertility and how hormones play a role in it. We hope to one day have a predictor of fertility––a crystal ball that can help us see and plan for the future. But until that day comes, women will arm themselves with data, and make the calls.