New study: women seeking to have a child should start before age 32

Brain vs Heart, from:
Brain vs Heart, from:

Dina sent me this sobering piece of research from the New Scientist which is perfect for all the young feminists who have been taught in college that marriage should be put off, and women can easily get pregnant after age 40.


It’s a question many people will ask themselves at some point in their lives: when should I start a family? If you know how many children you’d like, and whether or not you would consider, or could afford, IVF, a computer model can suggest when to start trying for your first child.

Happy with just one? The model recommends you get started by age 32 to have a 90 per cent chance of realising your dream without IVF. A brood of three would mean starting by age 23 to have the same chance of success. Wait until 35 and the odds are 50:50 (see “When to get started”).

The suggestions are based on averages pulled from a swathe of data so don’t give a personal prediction. And of course, things aren’t this simple in real life – if only family size and feelings about IVF were the only factors to consider when planning a family. But the idea behind the model is to help people make a decision by condensing all the information out there into an accessible form.

“We have tried to fill a missing link in the decision-making process,” says Dik Habbema at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, one of the creators of the model. “My son is 35 and many of his friends have a problem deciding when to have children because there are so many things they want to do.”

It’s a scenario that will be familiar to many; the age at which people have their first child has been creeping up over the last 40 or so years. For example, the average age at which a woman has her first child is 28 in the UK and has reached 30 in Italy, Spain and Switzerland. In the US, the birth rate for women in their 20s has hit a record low, while the figures for those over 35 have increased over the last few decades.

The decision is more pressing for women thanks to their limited supply of eggs, which steadily drop in quantity and quality with age. Female fertility is thought to start declining at 30, with a more significant fall after the age of 35.

[…]The new model incorporates data from studies that assess how fertility naturally declines with age. The team took information on natural fertility from population data collected over 300 years up to the 1970s, which includes data on 58,000 women.

I have often tried to talk to young women about the need to get their lives in gear. I advise them to work summers during high school, obtain a STEM degree in university, minimize borrowing money by going to community college for the generic prerequisites, don’t have premarital sex, get a job related to their STEM field straight out of college, pay off their debts, move out of their parents’ house, start investing from the first paycheck, marry between age 25-30, and then start having children after the first two “stabilizing” years of marriage. This is sound advice, rooted in my careful reconnaissance of the things that human beings care about and need in their old age. This advice is not bullying, it comes from reading many, many relevant papers. It comes from putting the knowledge gained from reading the papers into practice, and seeing results where appropriate.

I am giving you the numbers. Straight out of a peer-reviewed study. Don’t follow your heart. Don’t listen to your friends. Follow the science. Make your decisions within the boundaries of reality. God will not save you from foolish decisions.

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2 thoughts on “New study: women seeking to have a child should start before age 32”

  1. Good post. Personally I would add that there’s nothing wrong with dating young, dating without premarital sex and marrying at a young age to start a family sooner rather than later. Waiting until you are 25 or so can be more than a decade for some women with suppressing and controlling natural hormones that drive the attraction factors within the physical human body. Sometimes this can do more harm than good. I am a huge advocate of waiting until marriage to consummate it with the act of intercourse but I think it’s more realistic to marry sooner and together as a married couple, assist each other with higher education goals. This way you merely put kids off for a while, rather than putting off the gift of sex with your married spouse. :)


  2. As always, if one fits into the niche of being talented at STEM and such all is well, but the plan seems to neglect those with different skill sets. I’d really like to see more discussion of possibilities for those who are hampered in such areas.

    “Marry between age 25-30, and then start having children after the first two ‘stabilizing’ years of marriage.”

    With all due respect, I personally wouldn’t recommend trying for kids at 27-32 after two years of (presumably?) contracepting. I speak from experience when I say that the idea of stabilizing really is a bit of a myth – the process of stabilizing never really finishes, and the natural end of the conjugal night is inherently procreative and bonding. Until the advent of modern contraception one (pretty much) was trying for a baby from the moment of the wedding night; one might say that it is the primary purpose of marriage. If the perfect stabilized environment is desired, one could put off having kids indefinitely- and it keeps getting closer and closer to that cut-off limit.

    I strongly agree with the New Scientist article however (one of the few times!), in that it is a very good idea to start a family early and be wary of the very real biological limitations placed upon us. Thanks for forwarding it, WK!


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