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View Full Version : A way for a very young woman to know that she's infertile



The_Ink_Goddess
02-21-2014, 12:59 AM
So my WIP is set across multiple timelines/generations. In the early 1970s, I need a way for a seventeen-year-old girl to know that she's infertile, and wilfully keep it a secret from her boyfriend (or lie and tell him she's actually fertile). Is a botched abortion too medieval?

veinglory
02-21-2014, 01:12 AM
I am not sure we even know if some one is infertile for sure even now. Abnormalities with her period would be the most likely sign.

DeleyanLee
02-21-2014, 01:27 AM
My sister's normal cycle was once a year, and it lasted about 2 weeks. They put her on birth control pills to make her more regular, and it actually made her more fertile when she went off the pills to get pregnant. (Go figure.)

My aunt's normal cycle was twice a year, for about 3-4 weeks (but a very weak flow). There was no BC for her and she was considered infertile from the time she was a teen. She actually didn't get pregnant until her 30's (her adopted kids were in their teens), and after that her cycle was monthly and totally normal. Of course, she didn't know she was pregnant until she was 6 months along, since she was overweight and not missing her cycle until then.

That's probably the easiest explanation.

Ken
02-21-2014, 01:33 AM
well of course there's the obvious
though 17 you can have her have a history
(never on the pill, etc; never knocked up either)
these days readers would easily accept that

Maryn
02-21-2014, 01:35 AM
I would think amenorrhea--never having a period while being of reproductive age--would be a reasonable reason to think she's infertile. Other than pregnancy as the reason for no periods, the causes tend to be things which are treatable but do not work themselves out naturally--problems with reproductive organs or the glands which produce hormones.

Maryn, who checked the Mayo Clinic site to be sure

lbender
02-21-2014, 01:40 AM
A car (or other) accident when she was younger which required major intra-abdominal surgery. You could have a number of things they might have needed to do, including remove the uterus.

Jersey Chick
02-21-2014, 02:27 AM
My aunt had to have her ovaries removed when she was twelve. Needless to say, she was very much infertile after that,

mirandashell
02-21-2014, 02:32 AM
So my WIP is set across multiple timelines/generations. In the early 1970s, I need a way for a seventeen-year-old girl to know that she's infertile, and wilfully keep it a secret from her boyfriend (or lie and tell him she's actually fertile). Is a botched abortion too medieval?

Hmm.... Is this set in England, Ink? Being a woman who grew up in the 70s, I think 17 would be too young to know you were infertile because you hadn't had a period. Girls tended to menstruate later then. I was 16 when I started and my mom said a few years ago that she'd just started thinking about taking me to a doctor when it happened. And back then the doctor would have told her to wait a bit longer before they did tests.

So if you need your character to know for certain, having the ovaries removed would be a better answer.

eparadysz
02-21-2014, 03:18 AM
She could be a DES daughter. That in itself wouldn't make her definitely infertile, but it could be a reason for her to be screened for abnormalities/cancer and explain why she'd be aware of the condition.

Pyekett
02-21-2014, 04:04 AM
Back in the early 1970s, we already knew about two syndromes that cause amenorrhea and infertility: Turner Syndrome and Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (which back then would have been called "testicular feminization"). There are genetic causes of each, with TS being 45, X (not XX) and AIS often being 46, XY (a male genetic type but female appearance), though that was not known back then. However, the diagnosis could be made before genetic testing.

Both can have physical features that might have clued in the child's pediatrician earlier in life. With a diagnosis made during early teenage years, she would know (if told) that she would be unable to have children, although sexual intercourse would not be noticeably different than for anyone else.

Orianna2000
02-21-2014, 05:50 AM
She could have a malformation of the uterus that would show up in a routine pelvic exam. Some women actually have two wombs, so they can actually get pregnant twice, once in each womb, at the same time. Very bizarre! So perhaps your MC is the opposite and has no uterus at all, or she might have a closed cervix, or a tilted womb, or was born without fallopian tubes--something along those lines. (A tilted uterus doesn't necessarily equal "infertile," but supposedly it does cause problems getting pregnant, because the cervix is at the wrong angle.)

Trebor1415
02-21-2014, 06:22 AM
If she has been sexually active I believe that certain STD's can cause complications if not treated that include infertility. I don't know that you'd want her to be that sick though. (We're talking a STD that causes a massive pelvic infection, hospital treatment, etc, so that might not work for your story)

Pyekett
02-21-2014, 03:07 PM
More simply, she could be lifting someone else's contraceptive pills. Maybe substituting baby aspirin, if she needs to do it without anyone knowing.

ArtsyAmy
02-21-2014, 05:58 PM
What if your character is a survivor of a childhood cancer? Infertility might be a side effect of the cancer treatments. If so, the patient and her doctors might know about the infertility. I know very, very little about this, so if this is a possibility for your story, you'd want to research to make sure this would be plausible. (Don't take my word for it.) I suppose that in addition to researching whether infertility could be a side effect, you'd also have to research whether, in the 1970's, the medical establishment would have known about it.

I know of a teen who was treated for cancer when she was a pre-schooler. She still has health problems that stem from the cancer treatments, and I think she regularly has to undergo medical tests.

robjvargas
02-21-2014, 06:11 PM
The easiest way would be some kind of event. An accident or illness.

There are congenital reasons for infertility, but from a storytelling viewpoint, I think something initiating the infertility lends itself to more drama.

That's not an absolute, just a tendency.

Saanen
02-21-2014, 08:44 PM
I have an aunt who is infertile from a burst appendix when she was 18, back in the late 60s. It actually burst when she was in the hospital about to have the appendix out. She was in the hospital for weeks and nearly died. She was infertile from the resultant scarring, which also caused later complications that meant she had to have a hysterectomy in her 30s.

I have another relative with the twin-uterus issue someone mentioned above. Her OB/GYN told her it would be dangerous to get pregnant so she's been on birth control since it was discovered when she was in her late teens.

eparadysz
02-21-2014, 08:49 PM
(A tilted uterus doesn't necessarily equal "infertile," but supposedly it does cause problems getting pregnant, because the cervix is at the wrong angle.)

Doctors may have told people that in the past, but I understand it's generally accepted as untrue now. Certainly not true in my personal experience.

Orianna2000
02-21-2014, 09:55 PM
Doctors may have told people that in the past, but I understand it's generally accepted as untrue now. Certainly not true in my personal experience.
I was told a tilted womb could result in trouble getting pregnant when the doctor discovered mine a few years ago. Even if that isn't true, remember that the OP's story is set in the early 1970s, so perhaps doctors still believed it, back then.

Another possibility is mumps. Could be a myth, I don't know for sure, but it's commonly believed that if mumps spread to your reproductive organs, it leads to sterility. They vaccinate against mumps these days, but back in the 70s? Even today, some people get them, so it seems plausible. (Research it to be sure, of course.)

eparadysz
02-22-2014, 04:07 AM
I was told a tilted womb could result in trouble getting pregnant when the doctor discovered mine a few years ago. Even if that isn't true, remember that the OP's story is set in the early 1970s, so perhaps doctors still believed it, back then.

Oh, absolutely. I interpreted the OP to mean the girl needs to definitively be infertile, not just believe herself to be.

I don't remember a doctor ever suggesting I'd have trouble, but I think I was already pregnant the first time anyone mentioned it.

jaksen
02-22-2014, 04:21 PM
Hmm.... Is this set in England, Ink? Being a woman who grew up in the 70s, I think 17 would be too young to know you were infertile because you hadn't had a period. Girls tended to menstruate later then. I was 16 when I started and my mom said a few years ago that she'd just started thinking about taking me to a doctor when it happened. And back then the doctor would have told her to wait a bit longer before they did tests.

So if you need your character to know for certain, having the ovaries removed would be a better answer.

Wow, 17 seems awfully late. I, too, grew up at this time and most of my friends were having periods by age 14, at the latest. Some started in Grade 6, which can be as young as 11.

Having no ovaries would come to mind as the most obvious way to know one is infertile.

mirandashell
02-22-2014, 04:27 PM
I'm going by my experience in England in the 70s. A few girls did start at the age of 11. But that was regarded as unusual. Most girls were 14 to 16.

Nonnavlis
02-22-2014, 05:19 PM
I'm not sure if this is worth adding, but PCOS can have trouble conceiving/infertility as a side effect. I have absolutely no idea if that was a recognized condition in the 70s, or how it was seen if it was (I wasn't around then, aha), but nowadays one could have been diagnosed with it by that age. It does have some other somewhat undesirable side effects, though.

frimble3
02-23-2014, 06:15 AM
As to how she might 'know' that she's infertile: is it possible that she had an earlier pregnancy scare: had some symptoms, she or her parents freaked out, took her to the doctor, who examined/tested, said "Nope, she's not pregnant, and not going to be, either?"

Sandbar
02-23-2014, 07:16 AM
I was told a tilted womb could result in trouble getting pregnant when the doctor discovered mine a few years ago. Even if that isn't true, remember that the OP's story is set in the early 1970s, so perhaps doctors still believed it, back then.

Another possibility is mumps. Could be a myth, I don't know for sure, but it's commonly believed that if mumps spread to your reproductive organs, it leads to sterility. They vaccinate against mumps these days, but back in the 70s? Even today, some people get them, so it seems plausible. (Research it to be sure, of course.)

Yep, they vaxed "back in the seventies", too.
Though for her to be a teen in the seventies she'd've been born in the sixties, or even late fifties, but the mumps vaccine has been around since at least the early 50s.

The_Ink_Goddess
02-23-2014, 02:37 PM
Yep, they vaxed "back in the seventies", too.
Though for her to be a teen in the seventies she'd've been born in the sixties, or even late fifties, but the mumps vaccine has been around since at least the early 50s.

Yeah, the story has changed SLIGHTLY since I made this post (due to time constraints, I've moved the first story forwards to '83. She's 17 then, so she would be born in '66). Although I know "never had periods ever" is an option, a friend of the family, whose in her mid 40's now, never had a period until she was 17, and, although in circumstances like Carrie, it is possible for it to go on until 16-17. I need to convince the reader.

She needs to know fairly definitively that she's not capable of getting pregnant due to circumstances prior to the novel, but she gets pregnant in horror-movie circumstances (it's a horror novel - basically a succubus plants her baby inside her), so it's enough for her to freak out and know that some creepy shit is afoot. However, I'm also not sure about removing her uterus because she has to be physically able to carry the baby to term, although it can nearly kill her and be a totally freak incident. (Does this make any sense?) A severe STD would work well for these circumstances, as her boyfriend already has suspicions of her fidelity, although he has to not know she had an STD when she was admitted to hospital. I suppose she could always lie, although I know the doctors probably wouldn't be happy about that.

Sorry if that's totally confusing. :flag:

mirandashell
02-23-2014, 04:07 PM
I was going to say removal of the ovaries rather than the womb. Possibly because of infection? But thinking about it, doctors didn't like to do that at such a young age because of the side effects. So it really would be a drastic step.

So yeah, I think a STD would be your best bet. Although that will run the risk of making her unsympathetic to some readers.

How about her having a genetic condition that means it's not safe for her to have children so she was sterilised at her own request?

The_Ink_Goddess
02-23-2014, 09:19 PM
I was going to say removal of the ovaries rather than the womb. Possibly because of infection? But thinking about it, doctors didn't like to do that at such a young age because of the side effects. So it really would be a drastic step.

So yeah, I think a STD would be your best bet. Although that will run the risk of making her unsympathetic to some readers.

How about her having a genetic condition that means it's not safe for her to have children so she was sterilised at her own request?

Both work! (and actually work well, as there's a whole discussion about the fact that her boyfriend wants to bypass her will regarding the baby thing). Also, she's a lead character, but THE main character is her boyfriend, anyway, and he spends a lot of his POV wondering about if she's faithful to him. Which STD could plausibly cause that much damage, or genetic disorder? Anyone know?

mirandashell
02-23-2014, 09:33 PM
There are several genetic disorders that pass through the mother and into sons. But is that a big enough reason?

Trebor1415
02-23-2014, 09:49 PM
Both work! (and actually work well, as there's a whole discussion about the fact that her boyfriend wants to bypass her will regarding the baby thing). Also, she's a lead character, but THE main character is her boyfriend, anyway, and he spends a lot of his POV wondering about if she's faithful to him. Which STD could plausibly cause that much damage, or genetic disorder? Anyone know?

Wow, I wasn't aware Clymadia could cause infertility. I knew Gonnerhea could.

This link should help:

http://www.cdc.gov/std/infertility/

Jersey Chick
02-24-2014, 03:02 AM
Chlamydia can ruin more than just your day, if it's left untreated.