Choosing when to have a child is an intensely personal decision, with a myriad contextual factors influencing the timing. But according to a new study, there are specifically better times in life – applicable to everyone – to start a family; and as usual, it all comes down to numbers.
A recent Dutch study has come up with an algorithm to help couples decide when they should work on procreating some progeny, based on the woman’s age, how many children they want, and whether they’re willing to consider in vitro fertilization (IVF).
While fertility partly depends on paternal age and health, the mother’s age matters more, so researchers looked primarily at how a woman’s increasing age and declining fertility would affect her chances of successfully conceiving and carrying a baby to term. The scientists used a sophisticated computer model that simulated the potential outcomes of 10,000 couples without any known fertility problems who are trying to become pregnant.
Based on the computer’s results, a woman should start trying at age 32 if she wants a 90% chance of having at least one child without resorting to IVF and at 27 if she really wants two in her brood without assistance. Being open to medical intervention buys you time: utilising IVF pushes up the recommended ages to 37 years old to begin trying for one kid, 34 for two, and 31 for three (with a 75% chance of success).
Of course, the human body is a complicated saga; science cannot always accurately predict its future. Yet the research is extensive in its approach, taking into account such factors as the chances of conception in a given month, miscarriage, and also infertility.
The simulator is not a fail-safe tool, obviously, but being over-confident in our own bodies’ ability to fit in with our plans is not foolproof, either. It’s never a bad thing to be more aware of just how wide – or narrow – our reproductive window could be.