​​Angelina Jolie Sends Powerful Message to Women Whose​ Fertility Is Suddenly Taken Away

angelina jolie

Just about everything Angelina Jolie does seems to cause a huge stir, and her most recent decision is no different: Jolie has removed her ovaries and fallopian tubes to prevent ovarian cancer. And that means that at the age of 39, she's done having kids.

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While this operation is clearly a good thing for the star's health, the impact on her fertility and family plans is an issue that can't be ignored -- a point she does address.

"I will not be able to have any more children," she wrote in the New York Times. "I feel deeply for women for whom this moment comes very early in life, before they have had their children. Their situation is far harder than mine. I inquired and found out that there are options for women to remove their fallopian tubes but keep their ovaries, and so retain the ability to bear children and not go into menopause. I hope they can be aware of that."

Usually, how many kids a family has is a decision moms make after much deliberation and discussion with their partner. And thanks to the many impermanent birth control options out there, women often have plenty of years to decide what they want on this front. For instance, my husband and I are happy having one child, and although I have an IUD in place to avoid any "surprises," we are comforted by the fact that if we really wanted to, we could get my IUD removed and try for another. 

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But with health scares like ovarian cancer, that choice is taken away from you. It's BOOM. DONE. Baby shop is closed. And even though I'm pretty sure I'm happily "one and done" anyway, if I encountered a health scare that would rob me of that chance permanently, it would devastate me about as much as being told I faced imminent death.

I've heard other women talk this way -- women who've gotten cancer in their thirties. The first question out of their mouth to their doctor after "will I die?" is nearly always "will I still be able to have kids?" or (if they have kids already) "will I still be able to have more kids?" And if the answer is no, they are beside themselves with grief.

Yes, having a child already may mitigate that pain. But if you've always dreamed of having two kids, or oodles of kids, or just weren't sure how many you want yet, it's rough to have that number suddenly and unceremoniously capped without your say in the matter.

Right now I feel for Jolie, but also I appreciate her calling attention to the heartbreak many women face when life throws a wrench in their family plans. It's tough, and something that needs to be talked about.

How would you feel if a health issue spelled the end of your fertility?

 

Image © Alessandra Benedetti/Corbis

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