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Dating Advice #153 - Offspring Options
Dating Advice 153

Dating Advice #153 - Offspring Options

How should she broach the topic of her difficulty conceiving?


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I've been really learning a lot from your columns, and have a question about when to reveal certain information about myself to the man I am dating. I am dating for marriage, and he told the person who introduced us that he is looking to settle down, get married and have a family.

I'm 39 and am in premature ovarian failure. I actually started when I was 32, and at that point thought that I was all right with the idea of never getting pregnant. Since then, though, my feelings on the issue have changed and I am now having very strong feelings of wanting to have children.

I've been told that I could possibly get pregnant through in vitro, and I would be happy adopting a child as well.

It's too soon to tell if this man will be "the one," but I am wondering at what point I should let him know that having children won't come naturally for me. I know that I should broach the topic with him, but don't know when is "too soon." What would you recommend?


Dear Hanna,

Yours is a difficult question for us to answer, because it involves more than just common sense and experience. Jewish law also plays a role in the equation, and it may be a consideration in answering at what point in a courtship you should advise of your medical condition.

However, we think it is premature for us to answer your question about "when." Instead, we'd like you to focus on what and how you will discuss the topic.

We don't know how extensively you have looked into the possibility that you can become pregnant and carry a baby with medical assistance. We're acting on the assumption that after you made your peace seven years ago with the idea that you would not be able to become pregnant, you did not pursue more information until just recently. You're no doubt aware that there have been many medical advances in just a few short years, and what was medically unlikely when you were 32 may be meeting with success today. Recently, when we researched an answer for another reader whose medical condition was even more challenging than your own, we were amazed to discover just how many procedures could enable her to have children.

Because technology in this arena is changing rapidly, most gynecologists, even many who specialize in fertility, aren't aware of all of the most recent advances in fertility treatments. We know of one non-profit organization that serves as a clearinghouse of information for Jewish couples who are affected by a number of medical conditions that can be impediments to successful conception and childbirth. They are also helpful to Jewish women who, like you, want to marry and someday have children. The counseling, guidance and assistance they provide is free of charge, and everything is within the framework of halacha, Jewish law.

The organization is called the Puah Institute ( Puah is biblical the name of one of the midwives during the period of Jewish slavery in Egypt, who helped Jewish women give birth and hide their newborn sons from Pharoh's soldiers.

Now, as for what to say to your potential spouse: The best way to disclose a medical condition is to provide accurate information with an emphasis on the positive. In your case, that might mean introducing the topic by saying something like, "You know that the reason I am dating is because I would like to find the man I will marry, settle down, and hopefully have a family. I know, though, that I will only be able to become pregnant with medical intervention and God's help. There are a few different procedures available, and I am optimistic that they may be able to help me and my future husband become parents, but I wanted you to know my situation." This can lead to an explanation of your condition and what you have learned about how medical science may be able to help you, as well as your willingness to adopt children.

This approach sounds much more optimistic than telling someone, "I want you to know that I may never be able to have children." By emphasizing that you want children, and have explored the help that is available, you take an encouraging approach rather than a self-defeating one. Also, the man you are seeing is probably well aware of the fact that many women, both younger and older than you, require medical intervention in order to realize their dreams of becoming parents.

And in truth, the ability to have a child always rests in the hands of God -- no matter if you are 20 or 30 or 39 and experiencing ovarian failure.

As for when: We think you should wait until the two of you have started to find it easy to talk to each other about personal topics and feel you have begun to develop an emotional connection. Waiting until this point will enable you to disclose your "news" in a comfortable and receptive environment so that you can also explain your hope for the future and why you believe it is medically possible to achieve your dreams. Certainly the Puah Institute and your own rabbi can offer additional advice.

We wish you all the best.

Rosie & Sherry

April 12, 2004

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Chazak, June 3, 2004 12:00 AM

Forum for for singles with knowledge of IF problems

A new forum, Chazak, is being set up for those with knowledge of a fertility problem before marriage.

Finding out about a fertility problem before marriage is difficult and there are very few resources in the Orthodox Jewish world to assist those going through this nisayon. It is hoped that by finding and interacting with others in a similar situation, participants will derive strength knowledge and support.

Living with fertility problems and finding a shidduch can be a complex and confusing journey. Everyone's path is slightly different, but we hope that some support can help the navigation of these uncharted waters by equipping the members with some resources, information and above all else, reassurance that they are not alone.

This is a growing forum set up by amateur. Besiyata Dishmaya we will endeavor to assist and support those in need.

"Kavei el Hashem, Chazak ve'Ya'ameitz Libecha, ve'Kavei el Hashem" Tehlim 27:14

Log on to . Thank you.

(4) , April 20, 2004 12:00 AM

best wishes

I love this column. This is real life.

First of all unless a woman had a hysterectomy or completed menopause, she might be pregnant. I have a friend who was told by many doctors that she could never get pregnant. Then as a total surprise she go pregnant and now has a lovely son and devoted husband. (She has not been able to carry another pregnancy again.)

Men who have never started a family don't understand women's bodies. I think it is only fair to your boyfriend to explain the complexities of your situation and the impact of treatments on your marriage. Infertility treatments often don't work and drain alot from peoples lives. The first priority will be your marriage

(3) Anonymous, April 20, 2004 12:00 AM

re: no one is perfect

I must disagree with the writer of "no one is perfect" that a woman who is 39 and has never had a child has a miniscule chance of getting pregnant in any case. This is simply not true. While there are some women (of all ages, from 20s to 40s) who do suffer from infertility, and chances of infertility do increase with age, there are many women - certainly more than a "miniscule" number, who do get pregnant at age 39 and well beyond.

In my own family, on both my mother's and father's side by the way, women have had babies in their 40s (my father's mother at age 40, and my mother's mother at age 41 and 45 - and this was in the 1940s, well before any fertility treatments were available of course). In addition, my mother's sister had an unplanned pregnancy in her mid-40s *after* having been told by her doctor that she had already entered menopause!

Having seen this in my own family, I find it difficult to believe that there are not many other cases like this. In fact, in my clinical practice as a mental health professional, I had a client who had a child at age 47. The girl is now 15 and both mother and daughter are perfectly healthy and normal.

Of course the chances of a woman being infertile increase with age, but the majority of women who are 39 and have no health problems, and have not entered menopause (and will not for on average 10 years) have no reason to necessarily believe that they will be infertile. Men's sperm counts also decrease with age (and men's sperm counts on average have been decreasing in recent years in the United States, for still unknown causes), so it is true that if a 39 year old is married to a man older than her, it will on average take her longer to get pregnant. But with a man her own age or younger, most 39 year old women will not have problems with infertility.

(2) Anonymous, April 18, 2004 12:00 AM

no one is perfect....

... when a man (or woman) rejects a spouse due to lack of fertility it is saying that they do not value the sum total of the person they are involved with. yes, infertility makes having a family more difficult in some respects, but if anyone out there is under the impression that having a family is easy then they shouldn't be having children at all!

here's a silver lining made out of a bunch of negatives. your boyfriend has got to realize that a woman who is 39 and has never had a child has a miniscule chance of concieving naturally anyways. if he's a realist he would have already assumed that marrying you and having kids might involve in vitro or adoption. so he's most likely accepted infertility as a problem you two might have.

i hope you do have kids, with or without a husband.... there are children around the world and in the us who are in need of a loving home. in the us alone healthy baby children of color are often destined to live out their lives in a foster care system that won't give them a real family or any roots and may expose them to abuse. .... bringing one of these kids into your home, giving them judaism and your love would be a reward to you, the child and to our community.

(1) sonia, April 16, 2004 12:00 AM

a short advice

All rosie and sherry say about how approaching the subject is real true. As a biochemist I can tell you science has advanced more than no-one thinks. And lots of babies you see about came with a little help, from science and from G-d.
But there is one big help you can have too, and this is beyond any talk with any man. Adopt a child, first thing. You're giving a family to an orphaned child, and it is the most powerful fertility booster. Sure you know some woman that got pregnant after adopting. I can tell you about a lot...

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