Do You Know When Your Fertility Declines? Study Says Most Young People Do Not

Young people may have an unrealistic expectation for achieving both their life goals and starting a family

Most university students are not thinking about starting a family right now-- but they would like to one day. First they would like to complete their degree and get out in the real world to make some money. Then they might start to think about having kids. Unfortunately, all this might not be as attainable as they would like to think due to the fact the human fertility starts to decline with age. An Australian study found that most young adults do not know at what age their fertility declines-- and can’t understand how that might impact their plans for the future.

This article will examine:

  • When does human fertility decline?
  • What does that mean for future plans?
  • Future of fertility treatments

group of young people
Most university-age adults are not aware when human fertility declines.

When does human fertility decline?

A study done on Australian university students has shed some interesting light on how young people are planning their futures. Most want to complete their degree, get a job, and find a stable partner-- all before they’ll think about starting a family. What’s interesting to note here was that most of the subjects did not consider that their age will inevitably affect their fertility-- and they may not be able to get all their goals accomplished before their fertility begins to decline.

Male fertility

In the study, only 18.3% of men and 16.9% of women were able to identify the correct age when male fertility declines, which is 45-49 years old. This is not to say that men can no longer father children-- it’s just that it tends to take longer and comes with greater health risks to the child. The father’s age can even affect how well IVF treatment works as well.

Female fertility

Female fertility begins to decline between the ages of 35-39, and 38% of men and 45% of women who took this survey were able to answer that correctly. This may come as a surprise to man university-age women who would like to pursue a career after graduation. Waiting to get to a stable place where they feel comfortable having children could pose a problem-- seeing as it can take some women into their 30s before they feel ready to begin a family. Unfortunately, this is exactly when their fertility starts to decline.

The balance between life goals and starting a family is particular hard for college-educated women.

What this means for future plans

The participants in the survey seem to reflect a greater ignorance amongst society as a whole on how much age can affect fertility in both sexes. It also highlights the difficulty young people face when deciding how to plan for the future. In the study, the majority of the students surveyed wanted children-- over 75% of participants wanted at least two. Unfortunately this may not all work out according to plan-- and some sacrifices might have to be made.

The problem with balancing future plans with your biological fertility is especially hard for college-educated women. They are most likely to want to finish their degree, obtain employment, and be financially stable enough to have children. Without utilizing options such as egg freezing, they may find it difficult to conceive when they are ready to.

young people laughing
Young people should understand the biological limits of fertility.

Future of fertility treatments

Without changing some of their goals-- or adjusting some priorities-- many young people today might find themselves in need of fertility treatment in the future. As more and more people wait to have children, there is a decreased percentage of a chance that they will be successful-- causing them to turn to fertility treatment. But even with treatment, factors such as age and health can still have a significant impact on the egg and sperm cells produced. Having a large portion of people rely on treatment-- which comes with its own set of risks-- might not be the best way forward.

It appears there is a lack of education surrounding how fertility works in humans-- perhaps young people need to know that there are limits to fertility and that they should consider having children when it is biologically ideal. The students questioned seemed to believe that they would be able to accomplish all that they set out to do-- as well as start a family while their fertility was still high. This is obviously a difficult decision, and it is getting even harder for young people to balance their life goals with the dream of having a family one day.

The results of this study show that university age adults still want to have families one day. The problem is that there is a lot of other things they would like to accomplish before hand. Doing both within the limits of ideal fertility will continue to pose a problem in their futures.

Bridget Houlihan

Bridget Houlihan is a writer, poet, and cat mom living in Pittsburgh, PA.
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