The most important thing is understanding the delays to fertility and looking back with no regrets

One of the most common questions I get asked is: ‘How long I have got before it will be too late for me to ever have a child of my own.’

Different couples have different challenges when it comes to thinking about planning to have a baby, and questions like this one are difficult to answer, as fertility isn’t black and white: there are so many shades of grey.  

Having said this, planning as much of your fertility journey as you can is something I recommend highly. And as we end the year, I want to talk about the importance of having no regrets.

One of the most painful set of circumstances I see at the clinic is when women sit in front of me thinking of what they should have done differently. Normally – and I say this from having helped thousands of couples – they wish they had started trying sooner or had sought help sooner. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard couples say that to me.

In helping women with their fertility, I spend a lot of time trying make them aware of the possible delays in the process and the consequences of delay, and how they need to be strategic in their decisions. The reason? To ensure that they don’t feel this regret.

Quite often, women will come and see me at the age of 35 and say that they’re going to wait a year or two before they start trying. I always encourage them to start as soon as they can, because you can see at 35 how you can get to 37 or 38 before you’ve even had a baby.

So instead it’s about making a rational decision about how many children you want, but also understanding the delays and the pitfalls that can happen along the way. Although there are a lot of tests now that can help you gage your fertility, the hard thing about it is there are so many shades of grey and no guarantees.

Women are great at managing so many aspects of their lives, but often not when it comes to managing fertility.

Then they feel under huge pressure – after a couple of months of not conceiving, it’s easy become obsessed about measurements, timings and gadgets, especially around ovulation.  It can affect relationships badly: I see men on a daily basis with nothing wrong with them other than they can’t perform because they feel under pressure to do so.  

The good news is couples increasingly want to do all they can to help themselves. They want to feel proactive, even against a backdrop of having to manage uncertainty.

At the end of the day, I think it’s about looking ahead and thinking how many children you want and then factoring in all the delays in fertility and making a plan accordingly.