Health journalist Jordan Davidson was 24 years old when she learned that she was premenopausal. "I used to get my period every 20 days, which sucked," Davidson says in the latest episode of Bustle's YouTube series, Diagnosis Diaries. "Then it started coming later and later, and then it just stopped coming." Her doctor initially blamed stress, but Davidson insisted on having tests. The results revealed she was entering menopause decades early.
"It was pretty much a scene like you would expect in a medical drama," Davidson says. The doctor recommended that she find a fertility treatment clinic — and make an appointment the next week. It was at that point, Davidson says, that the severity of the situation hit her. "I started shaking."
Premature menopause, where your period stops before you're 40, occurs in up to 5% of menstruating people, according to the Office of Women's Health. Along with heart disease and osteoporosis, people who go through premature menopause are at risk for infertility. The National Infertility Association estimates that around one in eight couples have trouble getting pregnant, and 7.4% of women in the U.S. have received fertility services like IVF.
The next three years, Davidson says, were the worst of her life. She had experience with advocating for her own health; after experiencing serious pelvic pain from the age of 10, she was diagnosed with endometriosis at 12. "My early childhood, my teen years, my early twenties, it's pretty much just been doctors not believing me," she says.
The journey to understanding her diagnosis and getting support was rocky. "I saw someone who was considered a pioneer in restoring ovarian function, and during the appointment he turned to my boyfriend and said, 'You're a really good man for being with someone like her'." She eventually found a female doctor when she was 27, and says that's made all the difference.
But Davidson's still dealing with the cost of attempting pregnancy in "a very fertile world." "No one's throwing me an infertility party," she says. "No one's asking what's on my IVF registry."
IVF and other fertility treatments can be crushingly expensive — an average of $10,000 per IVF cycle, according to Penn Medicine. "If we put such a high price on pregnancy, then we're saying that only people who are wealthy deserve to become parents," she says.
Davidson has now done multiple unsuccessful rounds of intrauterine inseminations and IVF. "You don't even feel like a person after a while; it just kind of feels like you're on this assembly line," she says. After her second IVF cycle, she reached a breaking point, and decided to reveal what she was going through to the world. "I just tweeted the whole thing out, and I immediately felt better," she says. "I think telling people about my infertility, it feels more manageable now, because I'm not shouldering this giant weight."
She's also found comfort in the infertility community, where thousands of people share their own struggles to become parents. "They're all just so passionate about having their own children, and not being denied what other people have so easily," she says. "There are days where I think, why me?" But the community buoys her up.
For Davidson, infertility is like any other disease. Her diagnosis, and its aftermath, have made what is usually a joyous life milestone into a battle — but she's not about to stop fighting to have her own child. "That's really what it comes down to: feeling like this is your right."