While nearly all in the study wanted children, almost one in eight of the women wished to wait until their 40s to have their last baby and almost half until the ages of 35 to 39. A third of the men believed a woman's fertility decreased markedly only after the age of 45.
"While the participants had a relatively realistic perception of the most fertile period in a woman's life, both women and men had overly optimistic perceptions of a woman's chance of becoming pregnant and are not sufficiently aware of the natural age-related decline of female fertility," said lead author Dr Claudia Lampic. She feared that many female academics intending to have children when fertility is markedly lower might subsequently end up involuntarily childless or suffering secondary infertility.
Because postponing childbirth is increasingly common in western countries and relatively few studies have been done into awareness of fertility, researchers from Uppsala University investigated students' intentions and attitudes towards parenthood and their knowledge of age-related decline in female fertility.
Responses from a survey of 222 women and 179 men selected randomly from students enrolled in degree programmes showed that 97% of the men and 96% of the women who did not have children did want them, with around 85% wanting two to three. (Thirty-two students had children already, or were pregnant). Men most often wanted two children. Women were evenly split between a desire for two, two or three, or three.
Most women wanted their first child at around 28 with almost two-thirds choosing 25-29, but nearly a third chose between 30 and 34. Only 3% preferred to
Contact: Margaret Willson
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology