This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle’s health section on January 23, 2013.
The overall birthrate is falling in the United States, but there’s one age group in which having babies is on the rise – women over 40. This is encouraging news for women who wait to have children, but a new study shows that many women greatly overestimate what their bodies are capable of.
In a survey of more than 1,000 childless women age 25 to 35, 68 percent said they planned to have children at some point, and, on average, they expected to have their first child seven years later than their mothers did.
But the women in the survey also believe that a 30-year-old woman had about a 75 percent chance of getting pregnant after one month of sex without contraception. In fact, it’s a 25 percent chance. By age 40, the odds of getting pregnant in one month is less than 10 percent, but the women in the survey thought it was 30 percent.
Dr. Lynn Westphal, OB-GYN associate professor at Stanford, said there is little women can do to slow down the infertility that comes with age, but they can correct unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking or being overweight. She recommends that women in their early to mid-30s who want to postpone having children talk to their doctors about blood tests that evaluate ovary health and provide clues to their bodies’ future fertility.