08/01/2018 11:39 EDT | Updated 08/01/2018 11:39 EDT

Many Young Adults Don't Know At What Age Fertility Declines, Study Finds

New research found young people have unrealistic expectations of becoming parents.

New Australian research has found that many young people do not know when male and female fertility starts to decline, despite wanting to achieve many life goals before they start a family.

Carried out by researchers at the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority in Melbourne, the new study surveyed 1,215 students aged between 18 and 30 years, asking them about their intentions to start a family, expectations for parenthood, and knowledge of fertility.

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The results showed that less than 10 per cent of the students said they did not want children, and of those who did, 75 per cent said they wanted two or more.

Having children was also found to be equally important for male and female students, with being in a stable relationship, having a partner with whom they could share responsibility, and feeling sufficiently mature also rated by both men and women as the most important conditions prior to having children.

However, women were more likely than men to rate completing their studies, climbing up the career ladder, and having a career that could also be combined with parenthood and child care as 'important' or 'very important' conditions.

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Many participants also wanted to complete their families before a significant decline in fertility occurred, although they also said they expected to achieve many other life goals before becoming parents.

However, as most of those surveyed underestimated the impact of female and male age on fertility, the researchers warned that it was questionable whether they would be able to achieve their goals within the biological limits of fertility.

Less than half knew the age when a woman's fertility declines, with 45 per cent of women and 38 per cent of men correctly identifying 35-39 years as the age at which female fertility declines significantly.

Even less knew when male fertility declines, with just 18.3 per cent of men and 16.9 per cent of women knowing that 45-49 years is the age when male fertility declines.

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Lead researcher Dr. Eugénie Prior commented on the findings saying, "Our study shows that university students overwhelmingly want to be parents one day. However, most also have an unrealistic expectation of what they will achieve prior to conception, whether that be in their career or financially. We need to educate young people about the limits of fertility and support them to become parents at a point that is ideal biologically, while balanced against the life goals they want to achieve."

The results can be found published online in the journal Human Fertility.

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