Skip to content

    Infertility & Reproduction Health Center

    Font Size

    Delay Parenthood? Better Think Again

    Survey Shows Many People Overestimate Odds of Getting Pregnant After 40
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Nov. 17, 2005 - Young professionals who plan to put off parenthood may be overly optimistic about their chances of ending up with the family they desire.

    A survey of men and women seeking advanced degrees at a Swedish university found that both sexes tended to overestimate a woman's chances of having children after age 40.

    Almost everyone questioned said they wanted children, and four out of five wanted more than one child. But one in eight women said they planned to wait until their 40s to have their last baby, and almost half planned to wait until at least age 35.

    A researcher on the study called the findings "alarming" because so few of the students seemed to understand that a woman's chances of having a baby start to decline in her mid-30s.

    It Won't Happen to Us

    According to figures from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, one-third of women trying to conceive after age 35 will have problems getting pregnant, and two-thirds of women over age 40 will not be able to conceive without medical treatment.

    "Few of those surveyed were aware of the very sharp decline in fertility that occurs before age 40," Claudia Lampic, PhD, tells WebMD.

    "I think couples just assume that they will be able to have babies, and they don't think so much about fertility. They may have read that fertility declines after age 35, but they think it won't happen to them."

    The survey included 222 women and 179 men selected randomly from students seeking degrees in medicine, law, economics, or engineering at Sweden's Uppsala University. Their average age was 24.

    A total of 97% of the men and 96% of the women who did not have children said they wanted them someday. Men most often said they hoped to have three children, and women were evenly divided between a desire for two or three.

    Two-thirds of the women said they hoped to have their first child before the age of 30, but the rest planned to give birth for the first time between age 30 and 34. Just over one in 10 said they hoped to have their last baby in their 40s, but almost half (47%) chose 35-39 as the ideal age for their last child.

    Today on WebMD

    Four pregnant women standing in a row
    How much do you know about conception?
    Couple with surrogate mother
    Which one is right for you?
    couple lying in grass holding hands
    Why Dad's health matters.
    couple viewing positive pregnancy test
    6 ways to improve your chances.
    Which Treatment Is Right For You
    Conception Myths
    eddleman prepare your body pregnancy
    Charting Your Fertility Cycle
    Fertility Specialist
    Understanding Fertility Symptoms
    invitro fertilization

    WebMD Special Sections