Increasingly, young people around the world are planning to have children later in life, despite the fact that fertility declines with age after young adulthood. But new research shows a simple brochure can prompt many to accelerate their planned timelines.
In a study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, researchers found that college students intended to have children about one year earlier after they read a brief online brochure about age-related fertility decline and in-vitro fertilization success rates.
On average, the students originally planned to have their first child at 29 years old and their last at 34 years old. After viewing the brochure, they shifted their intended ages to 28 and 33, respectively. Their knowledge of age-related fertility decline and the effectiveness of in-vitro fertilization also increased substantially.
The findings show that a little knowledge can go a long way when it comes to family planning, said study co-author Rachel Thompson, post-doctoral research fellow at The Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science in Hanover, N.H.
“This study suggests that many people may be delaying having children without fully understanding fertility decline, and with unrealistically optimistic views of the ‘safety net’ provided by reproductive technology,” said Thompson, who came to Dartmouth after conducting the study with Aleena Wojcieszek at the University of Queensland in Australia.
“Increasing awareness of fertility issues, even through simple tools, is essential for ensuring young women and men can make informed reproductive decisions and could ultimately have a big impact on society,” she added.
WOMEN who want to start families are warned today that their biological clocks start ticking while they are in their 20s, not in their 30s as thought previously.
Male fertility also starts to decline by the time men, on average, reach their late 30s.
Women who decide to have their babies after they turn 30 will get pregnant, but it will take them longer, perhaps by a couple of months, according to the new research from America and Italy.
Dr David Dunson, of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, North Carolina, who led the research, said it was the first time a study had shown that female fertility begins to decline before a woman is 30.
“Although we noted a decline in female fertility in the late 20s what we found was a decrease in the probability of becoming pregnant per menstrual cycle, not in the probability of eventually achieving a pregnancy,” Dr Dunstan said in the journal Human Reproduction.
Does my age affect my fertility?
Yes. Fertility starts to decline for women from about the age of 30, dropping down more steeply from the age of 35. As women grow older the likelihood of getting pregnant falls while the likelihood of infertility rises.
Most women will be able to conceive naturally and give birth to a healthy baby if they get pregnant at 35 years old. After 35 years, the proportion of women who experience infertility, miscarriage or a problem with their baby increases. By the age of 40 only two in five of those who wish to have a baby will be able to do so.
The average age at which women have in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment in the UK is rising. This reflects the increase in infertility due to age. However, the success rates of IVF treatment for women over 40 using their own eggs are low, and have not increased much over the past decade.
From a purely biological perspective, it’s best to try to start a family before you’re 35 years old.
Men can remain fertile for much longer than women. Even though male fertility also declines with age, it tends to happen gradually for men.
While many men remain fertile into their 50s and beyond, the proportion of men with sperm disorders increases with age. The decline in male fertility is more gradual for men than women. The decline in male fertility can affect the health of the children they may go on to have.
The chart below shows your chances of getting pregnant according to your age. The chart is only a guide. It shows average figures for women in the best of health.