When's the Best Time to Start a Family?

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When's the Best Time to Start a Family?
Figuring out when to have kids. Inside are the biological myths and realities about conception.

Conceptions and misconceptions
Since the first "test tube” baby, Louise Brown, was born in 1978, doctors have brought more than one million IVF (in vitro fertilization) babies into the world. The next frontier is egg cryopreservation (freezing a woman's eggs and then thawing, fertilizing, and implanting them years later), which has been successful in about 75 cases worldwide, though the rate is still one percent per egg, at best. Researchers also have been removing ovarian tissue, freezing it, and then transplanting it back into the body. Doctors in Belgium froze the ovarian tissue of a cancer patient seven years ago, before she underwent chemotherapy. Last September, she had the first baby ever born from an egg produced by re-implanted ovarian tissue.

Life expectancies are increasing; the window for motherhood is too. As the next generation of women head out to buy their first business suits, they may be able to stop off at the egg bank, make a deposit, and buy themselves more time —a decade or two—before shopping for maternity wear.

Dr. Zev Rosenwaks, director of the renowned Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, predicts that, in the long-term, doctors will be able to "reproduce eggs, maybe reproduce sperm, and make infertility obsolete." But for now, as Rosenwaks cautions, a woman’s best chance of becoming a mother lies with her natural eggs. Your best plan is to get informed about your fertility—don't assume that if the stork won’t bring you a baby, your doctor can.