Most young people say they want kids, yet have no idea when fertility starts to decline
When I was born, my mum was 23 (my dad 26). She had my sister at 24 and was then done and dusted.
When I first became a mama, I was 28 – and then 32 when my baby #2 came along.
There is a growing trend across the entire developed world that women (and men) delay parenthood a lot more than previous generations.
For instance, Irish mothers are now the among the oldest in Europe, with the average age for first time mums now standing at just over 31 years old.
The problem with all this delaying? It's having some pretty dire consequences for both fertility and birth rates.
There are plenty reasons many feel they have to wait until their 30s to have a family, of course, from not feeling secure enough in your job and career and financial worries, to not having met the right person to have children with.
However, according to a recent study, conducted by Morning Consult for The New York Times, one of the most comprehensive of its kind, it turns out that most young US adults don’t actually know the age fertility starts to significantly decline.
While no one has studied the extent to which unrealistic attitudes about fertility affect future childbearing, reproductive advocates agree that some people could be spared the heartbreak and expense of infertility treatments and unwanted childlessness if they knew more about the age at which it becomes significantly more difficult to conceive and give birth.
Survey after survey of college students in rich countries has shown that young people aren’t as aware that fertility begins to decline significantly after a certain age, and also tend to overestimate how effective fertility treatments like IVF can be to help struggling couples conceive.
The latest one, a survey of 1,215 university students in Australia, confirms this widespread rosy view of fertility rates and IVF success.
For instance, out of 70 percent of the students who said they wanted to have children and agreed it would be important to have children before they got “too old,” only 46 percent of women and 38 percent of men knew that women’s fertility begins to decline significantly from ages 35 to 39, and only 18 percent of men and 17 percent of women knew that men’s fertility declined from ages 45 to 49.
Dr. Eugenie Prior, who conducted the research while she was in her final year of medical school at the University of Melbourne, admits she thought the findings were concerning.
"This highlights a need to educate all young people, not just women, about the limits of both female and male fertility,” Prior explained. “The decision to have a child is usually a joint one, so we need to make sure all parties are well-informed.”