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Myths and realities about the biological clock

A mother with her newborn daughter.
A mother with her newborn daughter.
McLaren5/Flickr (by cc-nc-nd)

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In a recent poll sponsored by EMD Serono, a bio-pharmaceutical company, data shows that women drastically underestimate how strong the connection is between declining fertility and age. For instance, women surveyed believed 30-year-olds had an 80 percent chance of getting pregnant in one try. In reality, it’s 30 percent. And for 40-year-olds it’s less than 10 percent, although it is perceived to be 40 percent.

These statistics are made more sobering by the fact that women also are unaware of the relatively poor success of fertility treatments on older women, as some women, even those who are active and healthy, go through as many as six rounds of in vitro fertilization without getting pregnant.

As society is pushing back further and further the age at which adults enter parenthood, many women are simply losing the opportunity to conceive. This is magnified by the fact that, in today’s modern world, many women expect to be able to get an advanced education and embark on their career before even thinking about having a child. But then, when they prepare to have a baby, the hard data provides a stark realization that there was something they simply didn’t know.

Many aspiring mothers blame their perilous situation on the fact that there isn’t an effective campaign in warning women of the dangers of declining fertility.


Why isn’t this information more widely known? Are women wearing overly-optimistic blinders? If so, why? And what – if anything – can be done to better educate men and women?


Dr. Marcelle Cedars, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Director of Division of Reproductive Endocrinology at the University of California San Francisco