With the current scare tactics of the world wide web, it’s hard to tell what’s really going on with fertility rates for women these days. Is infertility really our inescapable future? Not exactly. While certain factors can account for shifts in a population’s overall fertility (like access to health care, environmental toxins and economic recession), the trends we’re seeing are broader than the issue of just pregnancy or not. If you take into account how national fertility levels are measured and how the cultural shift in mommy ages and medical assistance highlight problems that youth and reduced social exposure may have masked in the past, you can see that it’s talk and not toddlers that are changing.
According to Dr. Norbert Gleicher, a world-renowned fertility specialist working with the Center for Human Reproduction, “There is no real evidence that there is more infertility now. It is just more visible since women are waiting longer to conceive”. In other words, it’s a complicated mix of changing perceptions and expectations. “As more and more people, particularly women, including some celebrities, open up about their experience with infertility, infertility is becoming much less of a “taboo” topic compared to even just ten years ago, which is making the topic much more visible to the general public.”
While Federal data continues to give us a broad view of national fertility levels based on the number of children born, the rate of those births and a hypothetical projection of future births, what they don’t seem to be illuminating is how the growing trend of delayed pregnancy highlights fertility complications for women at the tail end of their “peak fertility” years, women who may not have encountered these problems when younger mothers were still the norm. For Dr. Gleicher, “This is not an alarming situation where infertility is actually becoming more common—rather, we are more aware of it because we are talking about it more. This is a good trend that encourages people to be aware of potential infertility, seek expert help early on and be more proactive around their fertility in general.”
The final word is not that American baby makers aren’t producing like they used to, but rather that shifts in the discussion have created new opportunities to realize that pregnancies (and the choice about if and when to have them) are sometimes complicated by options. Changing our expectations to include factors like age, assistance and monitoring fertility health can hopefully help women steady the statistics.