A growing number of New Jersey women are finding themselves dealing with infertility when they decided to plan a family because more women are opting to delay getting pregnant in the first place, fertility experts say.

About 78 percent of those surveyed by the Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey said they are delaying getting pregnant and focusing on other aspects of life.

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In the meantime, many of these women aren't paying attention to their fertility during their 20s and 30s, which is the time when they're at their peak fertility, according to Dr. Thomas Molinaro, lead physician with Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey's Eatontown office.

"By the time they really start coming around to thinking about starting a family, it's in their late 30s or early 40s, which is when we see that women have a harder time getting pregnant," he said.

"About 34 percent of the respondents in our survey decided that they would defer starting a family for career or education. About 22 percent said that financially it wasn't a good time that they wouldn't be able to afford it. And we saw 22 percent of respondents saying they weren't even sure if they wanted to have a family, which is pretty common for people in this age demographic, between 18 and 42, especially at the younger ages," he said.

Molinaro pointed out it's important for women to be aware of their fertility at a younger age.

"One of the things we found that was surprising is that, Americans seem uninformed about fertility," he said.

"A woman's peak fertility is in her mid-twenties really, and then by the time we get past 35, we see a much higher incidence of infertility and miscarriage, and it's just harder to get pregnant than people realize."

Another surprising result to come out of the study, according to Molinaro, was that less than half of respondents said their ob/gyn had initiated a conversation about infertility and only a quarter even with through with that conversation.

Molinaro says doctors with busy practices have a harder time broaching such topics when they also are dealing with other women's health issues.

"Which is why I think it's important for something like National Infertility Awareness Week, where we go out and talk to the public — not just people who are actively trying to get pregnant and struggling, but to women of reproductive age so that they're aware to be proactive, to really get out there when they're younger and understand the biology and really push for some sort of answers," said Molinaro.

Determining a woman's fertility is much easier today thanks to the development of several hormonal blood tests that can help physicians identify at a younger age women who may be at risk for fertility problems.

For women considering having their eggs frozen, Molinaro recommended they do it between ages 32 and 35, at a younger age when they have more eggs and the quality of those eggs are better.

Molinaro suggested that women under age 35 who have tried to conceive for 12 months with regular, unprotected intercourse, and those over age 35 who have been unable to get pregnant in six months or less, should considering seeking alternatives. Those with irregular or no menstrual cycles, or women who have a history of surgeries on their ovaries or have had chemotherapy for cancer should consider not waiting to seek advice from fertility clinics.

Roughly one in eight couples suffer from infertility, almost 15 percent of the population, according to Molinaro.

"A lot of times these couples feel alienated because their friends are getting pregnant, their family members are getting pregnant, and it puts them in an uncomfortable position when people ask them, when are you going to get pregnant? And so, it's not always something that's discussed," said Molinaro. He added many find solace in online support groups, including ones run by patients.

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