Surprisingly few well-designed studies of female age and natural fertility include women born in the 20th century—but those that do tend to paint a more optimistic picture. One study, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2004 and headed by David Dunson (now of Duke University), examined the chances of pregnancy among 770 European women. It found that with sex at least twice a week, 82 percent of 35-to-39-year-old women conceive within a year, compared with 86 percent of 27-to-34-year-olds. (The fertility of women in their late 20s and early 30s was almost identical—news in and of itself.)
Good news, and I agree, under-reported.
Ultimately, though, is this article the other side of the coin for the fear mongering about the rapid decline of female fertility after age 27?
I think I’m trying to live with a different worldview. It is one that relinquishes control over that which we cannot control. For example, I studied German, German history, geo-politics and international affairs with an eye to becoming a diplomat or working in foreign affairs. I thought I might do a PhD examining totalitarianism in Europe. (Holy vague topic, Batman, good thing I didn’t. I would have been one of those “ten years and counting” PhD students.)
My point: What I’m actually doing is arguably the precise opposite of what I wanted to do. I work exclusively in English. I am primarily preoccupied with domestic issues. I did not know the job title of “public policy analyst” existed until after university was complete.
I use this personal example to highlight that we lack control in many areas of life. However, we loooooove the illusion of control.
With something so deeply emotional, intimate and personal as having children, our desire for control is heightened. That’s why unplanned and unwanted pregnancies are so difficult. That’s why longing to be pregnant when you can’t be is so difficult. My sense is that IVF is the flip side of an abortion-friendly culture, even while doing the opposite (creating life instead of ending it).
I say that without judgement of those women who pursue IVF, because I know–trust me, I know–what it feels like to want children. The temptation is there to pull out the Excel sheet and start plotting the points on the graph about how our lives will go. Children by 35, successful career too. Family and professional success. It’s not wrong to desire that. But it is not always under our control.
On Monday, all on one short day, I learned one friend has a cancer diagnosis, another friend got engaged. A low. A high. Neither were controllable.
The pressure is there: I should have a house! People my age are doing X, Y and Z! It is so hard to let go. My personal comfort lies in the dusty Bible on your shelf:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:13-17)
I am trying to live in a manner that shows my life has a purpose and a plan, while at the same time openly acknowledging that I am not the author of said purpose and plan.
Someone sent me the article above and I’ll freely admit it’s what I want to hear. I’ll drink to the notion that women in their mid and even late thirties can have children too. I’ve certainly seen it often enough. But ultimately, I’ll be lifting my glass to this crazy life with all its twists and turns. Not to get too super duper religious in one short blog post, but the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
Here ends the sermon.
Yesterday was a rant, today is a sermon. I just never know where my writing will take me.
(Me with a rental car, some five years ago, back when I still believed I had lots of control. Which raises the question of why I chose that car.)
Faye adds: This really is an interesting, myth-busting piece. Huh:
The data, imperfect as they are, suggest two conclusions. No. 1: fertility declines with age. No. 2, and much more relevant: the vast majority of women in their late 30s will be able to get pregnant on their own. The bottom line for women, in my view, is: plan to have your last child by the time you turn 40. Beyond that, you’re rolling the dice, though they may still come up in your favor. “Fertility is relatively stable until the late 30s, with the inflection point somewhere around 38 or 39,” Steiner told me. “Women in their early 30s can think about years, but in their late 30s, they need to be thinking about months.” That’s also why many experts advise that women older than 35 should see a fertility specialist if they haven’t conceived after six months—particularly if it’s been six months of sex during fertile times.