Opinion

The fertility predictor that tells you when you need to start having kids

Want to have three kids? Then you need to get pregnant when you're 23. At least, that's what a new fertility predictor says.

fertility predictor data

Photo: New Scientist

Scientists in the UK have developed a fertility predictor that might come as a shock to some young women. By its calculations, if you’re hoping to have three kids, you’ll need to get pregnant at 23 for a 90 percent chance of realizing your dream.

Crazy, right? At 23, you may just be finishing your undergrad. You’re likely sharing an apartment with a roommate, or even still sleeping in your childhood room at home. You may have plans for a master’s degree, world travel or a big career. Who has the time (or the maturity) for kids at 23?

But the fertility predictor does prove a point. More and more women are waiting until their late 30s and 40s to have kids, only to be startled that it’s more difficult to conceive than they imagined. The researchers who developed the tool stress that women often believe IVF will be available to them, but there is no guarantee that it will even work.

I got pregnant at 26 because I knew I wanted a big family (I have three kids, although I started out wanting four!). But I know my path isn’t for everyone. There are so many factors that go into deciding when to start a family and, looking back, there are things I wished I had done more of before having kids. I recall enviously scanning the Facebook photos of couples I knew as they travelled Europe and Asia while I sat home burping my baby. I spent my late 20s and early 30s focused on my family rather than my career because it was a priority to have my kids while I was young, healthy, and energetic.

This fertility predictor is helpful as a scientific reminder that the clock does tick. But it’s not like it’s over if you don’t have a child by 23. A 34-year-old woman still has a 75 percent chance of conceiving two kids naturally. And a 41-year-old has a 50 percent chance of conceiving one baby.

I know this kind of study can be frustrating to some women who may want a family but the timing just hasn’t been right. But if it helps a few people make some of those big life decisions, then I’m glad it’s out there.

Claire Gagne is acting senior editor for Today’s Parent and mom to three kids.

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