Study highlights difficulty faced by many young university-educated women, in balancing aspirations of study, career and parenthood.
Washington DC: Turns out, career choices can leave a significant impact on fertility in males and females, as per a recently-conducted study.
Researchers at Taylor & Francis conducted a study based on a large-scale survey of students, the results of which showed that having children before a significant decline in fertility occurred was equally important to male and female students. However, they also expected to achieve many other life goals before becoming parents.
Most students underestimate the impact of female and male age on fertility. Less than half could correctly identify the age when a woman's fertility declines and even fewer knew when male fertility declines.
In an anonymous online questionnaire about their intentions and expectations for parenthood and knowledge of fertility, researchers found that 38 per cent of men and 45 per cent of women correctly identified 35-39 years as the age at which female fertility declines significantly. However, only 18.3 per cent of men and 16.9 per cent of women correctly identified 45-49 years as the age when male fertility declines.
Fewer than 10 per cent of the students did not want children, and of those who did, 75 per cent wanted two or more. Being in a stable relationship, having a partner with whom they could share responsibility and feeling sufficiently mature were rated by both men and women as the most important conditions prior to having children.
While roughly equal percentages of male and female students considered these three conditions to be 'important' or 'very important' (over 90 per cent in each case), women were more likely than men to rate completing their studies, advancing in their profession, having work that could be combined with parenthood and having access to childcare as such.
The lead researcher, Dr. Eugenie Prior explained "Our study shows that students overwhelming want to be parents one day. However, most also have an unrealistic expectation of what they will achieve prior to conception, whether that be in their career or financially. We need to educate young people about the limits of fertility and support them to become parents at a point that is ideal biologically, while balanced against the life goals they want to achieve."
Many male and female students wanted to complete their families within the biological limits of fertility. But considering other life goals they wished to accomplish prior to parenthood, it was questionable whether they would be able to achieve this, the authors warned.
The study highlights the universal difficulty that many young people, particularly university-educated women, face in balancing the competing aspirations of study, career and other personal life goals with achieving parenthood at the age when they are most fertile.
The findings appeared in the Journal of Human Fertility.