How many healthy, young women discuss fertility with their OBGYNs at their routine check-ups? Many OBGYNs and primary care doctors spend considerable time counseling patients about contraceptives and preventing pregnancy, but how often do we think about the flip side? Maja Zecevic, PhD, MPH, was in her late 20’s when she was first faced with considerations relating to fertility. Her journey led her to found Opionato, the world’s first digital fertility clinic.
Currently, infertility can be a confusing and frustrating topic to address. Am I fertile now? Is my fertility declining? Is there an age after which I can no longer get pregnant, even with “help”? While there are numerous online resources, it’s hard to sort through all the sites and measure the reliability of each one. Maja was the North American editor of The Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world. However, even with this high level of medical literacy, she reflects, “I was astonished to find out that assisted reproductive technology cannot entirely overcome age related reproductive decline.”
After two surgeries to remove uterine fibroids and a diagnosis of endometriosis, Maja knew that a pregnancy could be complicated and would end with a cesarean section. Nevertheless, she and her partner desired pregnancy, and at 42, she was ready. Her reproductive endocrinologist informed her that her age alone was associated with only a 5% chance of having a baby. After three cycles of IVF (at a cost of $15,000 each!), Maja says, “I felt powerless, anxious, sad, uncertain, and hopeful — all at the same time.”
Maja sought a second opinion, but was surprised that getting an appointment was not just difficult, but perhaps impossible. Much to her chagrin, she realized that her age and prior IVF failures meant she had a low chance of success. She says, “I would skew the clinic’s success rate statistics in the wrong direction. I was being denied medical care so the fertility clinics could keep their success rates in a more marketable range. This was unfair and unethical and it made me angry.” She also learned that she carried a genetic mutation associated with premature ovarian failure. Maja reflects, “Had I known this genetic makeup about myself earlier in my life, I would have had the choice to act earlier when my chances of having a baby with natural conception and/or medical intervention were much higher.”
Instead of leaving her with anger and resentment, Maja’s infertility journey left her with a passion to help others proactively manage their fertility. “My mission is to democratize fertility information and empowerment and to decentralize geographic location of fertility experts by making them accessible and affordable with no wait time to you 24/7 no matter where you live.”
Regardless of what stage of the fertility journey, Opionato offers guiding resources. With Opionato, women, men, or both from anywhere and at anytime can obtain fertility assessment and ongoing/next step fertility advice that relies on evidence-based facts and world leading fertility experts. You can find more about Opionato or how to join as a participating expert at Opionato.com or by reaching Maja at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks to Maja for sharing her personal story with us!