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Baby panic averted?

How much does age really impact fertility with today's available technology and treatments?
How much does age really impact fertility with today's available technology and treatments?
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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Suppose you’re a woman of a certain age and you’d like to have children. Chances are you’re concerned about your ability to conceive naturally.

Most headlines on the topic and well-meaning grandparents don’t help ease the anxiety. Their advice is generally to pop those kids out while you’re still young, or risk never being able to. But is the fertility news really that bad for women in their 30s?

No, argues Jean Twenge in her recent Atlantic Magazine article, “How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?” According to Twenge, “the statistics on women’s age and fertility—used by many to make decisions about relationships, careers and when to have children—were one of the more spectacular examples of the mainstream media’s failure to correctly report on and interpret scientific research.”

For example, Twenge argues, the widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying is based on French birth records from 1670-1830.

“In other words,” Twenge writes, “millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment.”

Is the science used to educate women outdated and alarmist? Do modern studies paint a more optimistic picture? How much does fertility truly decline with age and what’s the takeaway for women in their 30s and 40s? How loud is that biological clock ticking for you?

Jean Twenge, author of the Atlantic Magazine article “How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby” and the book “The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant” (Atria Books)

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

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