Based on a survey of over 1,200 people as well as their own search data, health information website Healthline has put together a report on 2017’s “state of fertility”—a comprehensive overview of the current fertility landscape that explores how American parenthood is drastically changing and how it will continue to evolve over the next few years.
Here are our top five takeaways:
1. Millennial women are more likely to delay parenthood.
We’ve written before about the fact that women are waiting longer than ever to have kids; in 2014, women’s average age at first birth was 26.3, according to the CDC. This increase is part of an overall trend in rising maternal age. Since 1980, the average age at first birth has increased 3.6 years. There was a plateau from 2001–2008 when the average stabilized around 25 years, but after 2009, it began increasing again, rising from 25.2 to 26.3 in just 5 years.
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Between 2007 and 2012, birth rates among 20-something women declined more than 15%. Meanwhile, between 2000 and 2014, the number of women 30–34 having their first child rose 28%, and the number of women over 35 having their first child climbed 23%. There’s no doubt about the fact that millennial women are putting off parenthood longer, and Healthline’s report states that “putting off parenthood is a reality for 1 in 2 millennial men and women.”
That’s not to say millennials don’t want kids. A Gallup poll found that 87% of millennials say they want children someday.
While there are benefits to having children later in life, it’s a biological fact that it gets harder to get pregnant as you get older. Learn more about age and fertility.
2. More millennial women are aware of—and talking to their doctors about—fertility…
There have been several studies and surveys about the “fertility knowledge gap”—the fact that women don’t know as much as they need to know about their fertility. The good news from Healthline’s report is that more women are aware of their fertility, talking to their doctors about it, and open to fertility preservation options.
Nearly half (47%) of millennial women in Healthline’s survey who wanted children “were concerned about their fertility and ability to conceive,” and more than a third “proactively tracked their ovulation cycles.” This a great improvement in awareness from 2011’s EMD Serono survey, in which 73% of women believed that they “would have an average, or easier than average, time conceiving than most women,” despite waiting until their 30s to have children.
In comparison to a 2016 report that only 26% of women surveyed had discussed fertility with their OB/GYN, millennial women are proactive and positively chatty when it comes to the topic of fertility. Healthline reports that 86% of millennial women have talked to their OB/GYN about their fertility, while 76% have discussed it with their primary care doctors.
3. …But they still don’t have all the facts right about fertility decline.
While women are more aware of fertility decline and their preservation options, Healthline’s report demonstrates that the gap between what women believe about their fertility and the actual biology is still pretty wide.
While 70% of millennial women say they understand the impact of age on fertility, 68% of them weren’t aware that over 4 in 10 women over 35 need medical help, like IVF, to conceive. Furthermore, 89% of Healthline’s survey respondents were unaware that over 80% percent of women over 40 will need intervention to have a baby.
This is similar to results of earlier surveys, which demonstrated that women generally overestimate their chances of getting pregnant at any age—with a doctor’s help, or without—and underestimate the impact of age on fertility and the percentage of women who deal with fertility struggles.
4. Millennial women consider egg freezing more often—and for different reasons.
Healthline’s report tells us that 53% of millennial women surveyed would consider freezing their eggs, but their reasons are different than women in generations before.
A 2013 study by NYU of women freezing their eggs reported that a whopping 88% of women were considering egg freezing because they didn’t yet have a parenting partner. In contrast, only 18% of millennial women in Healthline’s survey are considering egg freezing because of the lack of a partner. The remainder are drive by a lack of “sufficient financial means for a child” (42%, compared to 15% in the NYU study), “choosing to focus on a career” (39%, compared to 24% in the NYU study), “health issues” (34%), “indecision about having a family” (32%), or a “focus on education” (25%).
Learn more about why women freeze their eggs.
5. Most women are still waiting too long to test their fertility or freeze their eggs.
The next step, one that’s really important to us here at Extend Fertility, is to make sure young women know that testing their fertility—and freezing their eggs—earlier gives them more options for the future.
In the Healthline survey, 58% of millennial women believe they should check their fertility health in their late 20s or early 30s. Many doctors recommend that women check their fertility health by age 25. We offer a free, no-obligation fertility assessment that allows women to do just that: get a picture of their fertility health so they can understand their options.
And many women are still freezing their eggs later than ideal. While most millennial women in Healthline’s survey said age 30 was the best time to freeze eggs (which is great!), 14% still said they’d wait until they were 35. As we know, egg freezing success rates are much better for women under 35 than they are for women over 35, because both egg quality and egg count decline with age.
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