Fertility And Age in Australian Women – The Statistics and The Stories

Now I’m usually a very even tempered person but I’ve had one of those conversations lately that makes me foam at the mouth and hop up and down in frustration.

It’s the one where the dear younger friend in her 30’s says she’s thinking she and her husband might try for a baby but they’ll just wait another year or two… or three.

Whaaat!!?? No!!!

I can’t believe that women who know enough about the facts of life to plan a baby, don’t know enough about the real facts of fertility.

The harsh facts about fertility and age.

The friend who completely took the biscuit was an old uni pal who said she and her partner were just waiting until the finished the house renovations and then they’d try for a baby.

She was 40.

I knew her well enough to give her a firm (but fair) talking to… which started along the lines of:

‘What are you thinking!!??’

Young men and women who are yet to step into the world of potential parenthood can be so innocent and naïve. The deep joys and potential disasters ahead are completely unknown to them.

Recently I’ve been talking to the groups in Australia who know the most about the facts about fertility and age.

IVF Australia, Melbourne IVF and Queensland Fertility Group are keen to make sure that young men and women who hope to start a family understand the realities of age and fertility.

They’ve produced this infographic which has all the facts and figures and explores the issues around: “Fertility and Age in Australia.”

Virtus Health - Age & Fertility

The more of us who have our kids younger, the less need for IVF and fertility services.  These fertility and IVF specialists are clearly trying to educate themselves out of business!

But seriously, these guys are at the coalface, where many of you readers have been too.

Each day they live the joys of conception and birth, and the terrible lows and distress of when things don’t work out well.

The process of talking to these fertility and IVF specialists has made me think a LOT about my own fertility story and the births of my four beautiful, strapping children.

And I find I have a LOT to say… things I have been thinking for years have been streaming out in words.

Once I have the words and thoughts marshalled, I shall be posting more about my own family… and the hopes I have for my own kids… and the fears too.

I know many readers have had a tough road to parenthood, and I’ve experienced the pain and loss of miscarriage myself.

Here’s to education around the facts of fertility,  from the specialists who have extensive experience caring for women on their emotional journey to parenthood.

Did you have your children when you were young?

This post is brought to you by IVF AustraliaMelbourne IVF and Queensland Fertility Group

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  1. says: Averil

    My husband and I married in our early twenties then after three years had our first son. I was 25. Then 27 when my 2nd boy was born, and 30 when my daughter was born.
    Out of the school mums I know I am the youngest, and I’ve seen a few have fertility struggles along the way. For them it was not meeting the right man until their early 30’s. My husband and I feel very lucky that everything has been smooth sailing for us. It’s a lovely feeling knowing that our family is complete and we’re still young.

    1. says: Seana Smith

      Very, very glad to read your story Averil. We have some young mums at school and I always say to my little son and daughter that they were the wise ones… or the lucky ones, whatever. I’ll be 60 when my twins leave school… still can’t quite get my head around that thought.

      Thanks for sharing your happy story.

  2. says: Wendy Parks

    It would be great it if were “that easy” to have children while in your 20s. That is what I wanted and dreamed of, but I didn’t meet my husband until I was 37. My strong belief that children, where possible, need a mother and a father in the same house meant that I was not going to be a single parent. So I waited. I got pregnant with my first at 38, but IVF has been unsuccessful for us for baby # 2. Not my fault. Not my husband’s fault.
    I have honoured my daughter by waiting until I was married to have her.
    Some of us are just not lucky enough to find Mr Right in our 20s 🙁

    1. says: Seana Smith

      That was my story too, Wendy, I met my husband in my 30’s, though maybe for different reasons than you,

      I was too emotionally immature/messed in my twenties and am forever grateful not to have shacked up with any of the desperado boyfriends I inflicted myself upon. Am very glad that I did straighten myself out and I used to say that my husband and first son were the rewards for all the therapy I had needed.

      Very sorry to hear that you have not been able to have a second baby, and several friends of mine share your story. Very hard paths to tread. Am popping over to read your post.

      Thank you for sharing.

  3. says: Dani

    I had my first baby last year at age 38, and have been trying for 3 months for number 2, on an if-it-happens-it-happens basis. I was also never in the right relationship,,and then 2 years of trying before it happened naturally. Anecdotally, I do have quite a number of friends who have had babies in their 40’s, but I would have preferred to have started having babies much earlier, and would certainly recommend it, if it is at all possible (on the other hand, I would tell women who don’t currently have partners -don’t lose hope, because it may be statistically harder, but is far from uncommon to still have babies in your late 30’s and onwards).

    1. says: Seana Smith

      When I talk to people I’m like you and recommend earlier not later… life is such a lottery… some friends have had babies easily in their 40’s… but most not. And the thing is, we just don’t know before we start.

      And of course the urge, when it hits us, is SO strong… many thanks for sharing your story.

  4. I have just had my 6th child at 42. I started our family at 29. We conceived literally the first time every time. I lost a baby and a tube to an ectopic pregnancy (it’s on my blog), but that didn’t hinder us in the slightest. Even at 42 years of age and one tube, we still conceived first go. We have been exceptionally lucky. I am so grateful for the gift of my kids. We never had a miscarriage and for this I am so thankful. My heart goes out to women and men who cannot make their dreams happen.
    We are one for the other side of the argument – that it is not all gloom and doom for everyone past a certain age. I know many who have conceived naturally at many ‘older’ ages. I don’t feel my age at least – or look it apparently!

    1. says: Seana Smith

      My goodness… the first time every time, that is amazing… and as you say really lucky. And it’s remarkable not to have had a miscarriage too, I was lucky and didn’t have one until after my first two sons were born, and for that I was terribly grateful. It must be awful to lose a baby and then go home to a quiet house.

      You’re right, it’s not ALL doom and gloom. But all too often we only hear of the happy stories, and my experiences of having babies in my 40s have not been all beer and skittles. In fact, no beer or skittles at all!

      Thank you for sharing, and I’m dashing over to visit you as I’m drooling at the thought of a coconut passionfruit cake – have never made one, but feel that could be about to change.

  5. Great post, Seana. Totally agree. Some feminists object to these messages as evidence of the patriarchy (men attempting to control women’s bodies and life choices), but really it’s about fertility doctors observing close-hand the heartache of couples who have left it too late. Admittedly, this is sometimes through no fault of the couple (having met late in life), but people who delay parenting exclusively for lifestyle reasons are extremely unwise.

    Not to mention that older parents are more likely to have children with disabilities, which you and I both know, is an exhausting at any age, let alone when you’re closer to 50 than 30. Actually parenting at 50 is exhausting full stop!

    1. says: Seana Smith

      Hi Benison, you are telling me that parenting at 50, OK 49, is exhausting… I have been writing other bits and pieces about the downsides of late babies… will post more thoughts later… too exhausted by parenting and end-of-termitis.

      Appreciate your thoughts… Mother Nature is bigger than all of us…

    1. says: Seana Smith

      Hahaha… I’m not sure hot is the right word… I’d have fallen off the horse with laughter if you’d said that at the time.

      My legs are still sore three days later – I’m an old crock.

  6. Having had my first baby easily and then suffering secondary infertility for 4 years after his birth, I was one of those naive ones who got a big shock when it didn’t just happen when I wanted it to. I got my happy ending after many rounds of IVF with a combo of Chinese herbs and acupuncture. It is so great to be done and dusted, but that feeling of wanting more kids and it just not happening is so devastating.

    1. says: Seana Smith

      Devastating is the very word Carolyn: you struggled to have that lovely little daughter, I know. Awful. And I know several friends who struggled to have one and are grateful for that one yet heartbroken their child can have no siblings.

      We all do make peace with what happens in our lives, but it takes a LONG time for that peace to come, in my experience. Thank you for sharing your story.

  7. says: Simone

    Great post. I struggled to fall pregnant with my 1st, which had flow on effects, with me delivering my 3rd when I was 39. Now she is 5 and I am 44 and out of the blue she asked me the other day “So will you still be alive when I am 44?” Hmmmm. She has already decided she wants to have her children young like her Nanna did. Out of the mouths of babes.

    1. says: Seana Smith

      Oh, that worries me too. I’m 49 and my mum is only 74… and I need her… I’d like to be a granny and to help my children with their children… a good motivation for us to try to stay fit and healthy.

  8. says: Eva

    I had my son when I was 29 and our plan was to have another when he was about 2, but unfortunately PND raised its ugly head and I wasn’t diagnosed until he was 19 months old which has and will definitely put a halt on things. The age factor has definitely something that has concerned me, but I don’t know when I’m going to be ready to fall pregnant again. But, in saying this, I’d much prefer to be mentally healthy and focused than have a baby now because of my age, although I do worry about how long it will take ’till I am ‘ready’.

    1. says: Seana Smith

      Hello Eva, I hope you’ll get there sooner not later, and here’s hoping that you’ll be all good with the next baby. PND is terrible but treatable as you’re finding. You’re still young, good on you and here’s to good mental health in mums – one day at a time.

  9. says: Emily

    This is SO my older sister, 38, while she isn’t married she has a long-term partner, she is wondering if she wants kids and I said, I think you should just DO IT! I said you never regret kids. I also wanted to add that if it doesn’t work out with the partner that she won’t regret having a child, but I didn’t go that far. I suppose we can just say what we feel comfortable with. She has had a few fertility issues anyhow so I just want her to just DO IT. But then again it’s not my life right?! xx

    1. says: Seana Smith

      I often regret kids… but never for too long… I do completely respect the people I know who have chosen not to have children, un;ess you are sure you want to, don’t do it is my motto. One old friend was so sure he had a vasectomy quite young and he has no regrets. That was right for him. No rights and wrongs, but lets hope she gives it a go if she has the urge… it’s heart breaking when people start in their 40s’… but we’ve all got our stories and our reasons.

  10. says: Mairi Stones

    Hi Shosh, Interesting post. I stopped using contraceptive aged 30 and ended up having my twins, conceived through IVF at 35. What I’d want people to know is how long it can take from trying to getting there, especially if problems are found. I had blocked tubes so no chance except with IVF, so I’m grateful it exists. What worries me more is the number of people going down that route who have no known definitive cause for their lack of getting pregnant. It seems to me there’s a lot more work to be done in yes, saying start earlier because it can take a long time, but also looking at the healthy and well being status; clean up, detox, de-stress. I’m becoming more and more convinced that with our bodies lies the truth, and to them we should turn for guidance, but that’s a while other discussion I suspect. X

    1. says: Seana Smith

      Yes, that’s right, and there are many people who do start to look at their health and how they look after themselves when they start to try, or start to realise it’s going to be hard… and that’s the blokes as much as the women who need to get nutrition and exercise etc etc improved.

      Mother nature is bigger than all of us, even though technology has changed the world so much, it hasn’t changed humans that much.

  11. I’m fairly lucky in that I had my last child at aged 27, which is the exact opposite of most people these days. At 30, I’ve got four and I’m well and truly done.
    I also realise I was lucky. My eldest was not planned and in an ideal realtionship, but then I met Boatman at 21, was married at 22 and we just kept going with kids. It must be so much harder for those who don’t find their mate until much later in life, and get that option taken from them.

    1. says: Seana Smith

      There were definitely reasons for me not finding a life partner until my 30s… none of them good… I’m so glad I did straighten myself out and form a loving relationship. Very glad you did too and had your kids young. I’m with you on the four and done – many days four is MORE than enough.

  12. I absolutely agree, so many people put it off and are shocked when things don’t go according to plan.

    I had three children naturally to my first husband in my twenties and needed IVF for the final two with my current hubby. There were a lot of miscarriages and heartache trying to give my husband children of his own. I was only 35!

    1. says: Seana Smith

      It still startles me when people don’t really grasp the facts about fertility… or think it won’t be a problem for them, or whatever. Very glad that IVF did work for you. I had three miscarriages (well strictly two and one blighted ovum) between the teens and the twins – horrible. More to say about it all, but after the holidays and a wee bloggy break, I think.

  13. says: Kathy

    I feel very much like you in wanting to warn people and I used to do that a lot. We started trying when I was 28, did IVF for 9 cycles and 5 years, lost a baby through an ectopic pregnancy and otherwise never fell pregnant. We welcomed our beautiful daughter (now 10) through adoption when I had just turned 36. Then we waited, and waited again to adopt our son, who we welcome when I was 42. Life is complicated, and we don’t always get to choose (to meet the right partner, and certainly not our fertility). I love my children and wouldn’t want things any other way, but infertility is a very hard road I wouldn’t wish on anyone. BE aware.

  14. says: Sara

    There was an article on the BBC website (The 300-year-old fertility statistics still in use today) – that would indicate that the statistics used are a bit out of date… 300 years in facet!

    The most widely cited is a paper by David Dunson was published in 2004, which found that 82% of women aged between 35 and 39 fell pregnant within a year. That’s significantly better than the two-thirds chance drawn from the 300-year-old birth records.

    It would be interesting to have more data from more recent years!

  15. says: Cyndie

    I turned 30 last month. I have been looking forward to pregnancy for a few years, yet I don’t know if I’m ready to have a child. Life feels so busy already between work, housework, no family here to help etc. For my partner it is important to be financially secure before trying for a baby, he wants to do things in order … we both have full time careers, we bought a unit earlier this year. We are engaged to be married next year. The plan (for me at least) is to try for a baby straight after our wedding, I don’t want to wait too long, I will be 31 already and my partner 35. I am aware that it can take a little while to happen and I am a little concerned about it.

    1. says: Seana Smith

      Good on you Cyndie… thanks for reading… you’ll probably get pregnant on night one and then have a panic!! There’s never a right time to have a child… and they don’t need to cost as much as we often think they do… Appreciate hearing from you and glad to hear you’re thinking about this tricky topic.

  16. says: Riley

    Came across your article randomly, good read and interesting to hear an older mum reflect… My husband and I are both 27 (been together for 8 years, married for 1) and are trying to decide whether to ditch contraception or not… We would love a baby but feel very young and don’t want to regret it!

    1. says: Seana Smith

      I really don’t think you’d regret it. If you’re a stable couple and can provide a happy home (which I have to say I was not in the position to do at your age!) then I’d go for it if you have the urge. Babies, children come with all sorts of ups and downs and it’s wonderful if parents have extended family close who can help and be part of the children’s lives.

      A very good pal of mine whom I met when we were expecting our twins had hers when she and her husband were 29. Those twins are 9 today and my pal isn’t even 40 – amazing! They’re well set up and the kids are very healthy and well. They wanted to be younger parents and I often envy them, I must admit.

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