Age and Fertility Statistics- Have We Been Sold a Pack of Lies?

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A few months ago I was at an unlikely place where I picked up a copy of The Atlantic and read an article called “How Long Can You Wait To Have a Baby?” The author was feeling deep anxiety about the ability to have children later I life. And who doesn’t with all the dismal statistics out there. However, as a researcher, she knew that scientific findings often differ from what the public hears about them. So she started digging.

Here is the Cliff Notes about what she discovered.

“The widely sited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the date: French birth records from 1670-1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 precent—was also caluculated based on historical populations.”

So basically millions of women are told that they can’t be pregnant after a certain age based on a study that was done before electricity and in a place where bathing is still upopular.

She found surprisingly few well designed studies of female age and natural fertility that were done in the 20th century. But the few she found showed that the difference in fertility between the age groups was pretty small.

  • women 27-34 having sex at least twice/week –  84% chance of pregnancy within a year
  • women 35-40 having sex at least twice/week – 72% chance of pregnancy within a year

In another study of women age 38 and 39, 80% of white women of normal weight got pregnant naturally within 6 months.  

She gives many more examples of how statistics have been skewed or other factors that may have influenced the studies, such as war, length of marriage, culture, poverty, etc.

The point of her article was to encourage women not to buy into the baby panic. She is now the mother of two children born after age 35.

I don’t know why I am sharing this today. Maybe it is because I have a birthday in a few days. This article came in its time as an answer to an unsaid prayer or question. I was just facing my second divorce (husband sadly lost his mental health after just 3 months of marriage and ran away) at age 35. I haven’t felt baby hungry for a  few years, but I do know there I have another one waiting, and I was beginning to wonder if baby #2 will ever make it to my family.  Finding this article was God’s way of confirming to me that all will be well and I should just keep trusting.

I also share this because I am a lover of truth and I think that it is easy to be swayed by “scientific studies.” The real truth is that if a baby needs to come, it will come. If a woman is struggling with infertility, she should keep searching and trying to understand how the Lord will provide that child to their family. But the truth of it is, your age may have nothing to do with it.

It may be that even in ancient days, women were told they couldn’t conceive in old age. In fact, Sarah laughed when an angel told her she would conceive. But she did. So did Elizabeth, mother of John, the Baptist. My grandmother had babies into her 40s.

So don’t put off having a baby if you feel like it’s time, and don’t have one just because you are scared that you won’t be able to later. This is another reminder to me that personal revelation trumps all worldly knowledge, statistics, advances. Trust it. Follow Him.

What have been your experiences with age and fertility? What is the oldest mother you know?


5 thoughts on “Age and Fertility Statistics- Have We Been Sold a Pack of Lies?”

  1. I have five kids – first born at 27, the fifth at 37, several miscarriages in between with another miscarriage at 39. At 40, I still feel that we are “not done yet” … but nothing has happened in the last 18 months since the miscarriage. As I’ve pondered this, and sought direction, I have a hormone imbalance, which I am now working on with diet changes and natural progesterone cream.

    The age of miracles isn’t over, and the Lord works them in our lives on His timing, according to His plan.

    The oldest mother that I know personally was a woman who had remarried and had her last baby at 52 or 53 – I can’t remember. That mother was in her 80’s when I met her, and her son had just turned 30’s. (And yes, he had Down Syndrome).

  2. I am happily and healthily pregnant right now at age 39. My friend had a baby at 40 last year. My sister had a baby 3 months ago at age 44, my brother was born when my mother was 40, against the dr’s wishes who encouraged her to abort. My ex-brother-in-law was born when his mother was 48 (nearly 40 years ago without today’s modern medicine) All babies and mothers were completely healthy. I think the age thing is hogwash. Too many people are scared of waiting so they hurry to get it over with while they are young. Each woman is an individual and should make the choices with their partner that are best for them and their health and their relationship. Don’t let a doc tell you it’s too late if you are a generally healthy person. He/she is not God!

  3. My mom had her last baby at 42. This is comforting to me as well. Sometimes I worry that I won’t be able to have children because I haven’t been given the opportunity to marry yet. Every time I hear statistics about fertility, (or breast/ovarian cancer in women that haven’t had children) I start to feel that familiar anxiety rise up inside me. Sometimes it feels a little unfair to have to put that desire on the shelf AND worry about the possible health repercussions. But you are right, things aren’t always as they seem. If God has a will for our future he will help us find the way.

  4. I agree with you!! If the Lord wills it, it will happen. My mother was nearing 40 and she and her sister went in together to get their tubes tied. Mom wasn’t totally sure it was the right thing to do, but she figured if the Lord didn’t want her to, He would let it be known. She didn’t get a reply. After the surgery, my mom said she felt awful. She later had a tubal pregnancy. When the doctors went in, they burnt one side and told her the other side was destroyed. She could not get pregnant again. The next time mom and dad saw that doctor, mom was going in for an ultrasound!! Mom gave birth to her fifth child in her 40’s. We KNOW for a surety that my little sister was supposed to be in our family and boy did she fight for the right to be here with us!!

  5. I love this information Felice. I have not had any problems getting pregnant after age 35 and believe it or not it has not been physically harder to carry my babies either. In fact this last pregnancy I felt quite good physically and emotionally compared to previous pregnancies.

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