Many of us think carefully about what our life will look like and plan for life events, like how much schooling we will complete and what kind of career we will have. Most of us also think about having children as part of our master plan. In fact, many individuals begin creating their parenting story during the course of their childhoods as they try on different roles during play (Jaffe, Diamond, & Diamond, 2005). Consistently, approximately 70 percent of individuals actually become parents (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). Nonetheless, parenting trends have been changing over time. For example, individuals in developed countries tend to have fewer children and tend to have their children at older ages than those from earlier generations (Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 2009). These trends may actually make it more difficult for individuals to become parents and may prevent some from becoming parents at all.
In fact, infertility (or the failure to conceive after one year of regular intercourse without contraception; Klock, 2004) affects more than 7 million women (Chandra, Martinez, Mosher, Alma, & Jones, 2005) and 7 percent of couples (CDC, 2005) in the United States. There are many reasons that individuals may experience infertility, but one contributing factor may be just the natural decline that occurs as individuals age. Unbeknownst to many women, their fertility begins to decline in their late twenties, with further decreases during their thirties (Dunson, Colombo, & Baird, 2002). Ultimately, by the time that a woman reaches the age of 40-years, she has just a 5 percent chance of conceiving each month (Southern California Center for Reproductive Medicine, No Date). Although men’s fertility is less affected by their age, they too will experience declines in fertility by their late thirties (Dunson et al., 2002). Given these difficulties, individuals are turning more frequently to assisted reproductive technologies.
As a result of these trends, approximately 1 percent of infants born in the United States in 2005 were conceived with technological help (Wright, Chang, Jeng, & Macaluso, 2008). Unfortunately, many more individuals do not conceive successfully with such technological assistance. For example, only 35 percent of women who attempted assisted reproduction in 2005 had live births (Wright et al., 2008). Although success rates of assisted reproduction are improving (Duenwald, 2003), these statistics tell the story of an undercover dilemma for modern families. As women are more readily pursuing careers, they need to remember that they cannot wait too long to start thing about if and when they would like to add children to their life story. Instead, they need to plan carefully around these fertility trends so that they can have the children about whom they dream.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC). (2005). Assisted reproductive technology: Home. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/ART/.
Chandra, A., Martinez, G. M., Mosher, W. D., Alma, J. C., & Jones, J. (2005). Fertility, family planning, and reproductive health of U.S. women: Data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Statistics, 24, 1-60.
Duenwald, M. (2003). After 25 years, new ideas in the prenatal test tube. New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2003/07/15/health/15IVF.html.
Dunson, D. B., Colombo, B., & Baird, D. D. (2002). Changes with age in the level and duration of fertility in the menstrual cycle. Human Reproduction, 17, 1399-1403.
Jaffe, J., Diamond, M. O., & Diamond, D. J. (2005). Unsung lullabies: Understanding and coping with infertility. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
Klock, S. C. (2004). Psychological adjustment to twins after infertility. Best Practice and Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, 18, 645-656.
Papalia, D. E., Olds, S. W., & Feldman, R. D. (2009). Human development (Eleventh edition). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Southern California Center for Reproductive Medicine. (No Date). A woman’s age and fertility. Retrieved from http://www.socialfertility.com/age-and-fertility.html.
U.S. Census Bureau. (2006). International data base. Retrieved from www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbnew.html.
Wright, V. C., Chang, J., Jeng, G., & Macaluso, M. (2008). Assisted reproductive technology surveillance-United States, 2005. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 57 (SS05), 1-23.