How Much Do You Really Know About Making Babies?

pregnantAs far as we've come in the area of sex education over the years, it appears most of us still don't really know how the birds and the bees actually work. Oh, we know the mechanics, but when it comes to how to actually produce a baby, most of us have no clue. It's called "fertility math," and most us are flunking.

The Today show recently highlighted a survey by RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, that showed just how ignorant we are. They found that less than half of women between the age of 25-35 could answer 7 out of 10 questions correctly when it came to fertility. Most errors involved how long it takes to get pregnant and how dramatically fertility declines with age.


Some say it's the plethora of celebrities who birth children in their late 30s and 40s who contribute to the problem. We see Mariah Carey at 41 and Marcia Cross at 44 with their adorable twins, and just assume we have that much time too. Of course, we also rarely see the treatments they may have gone through in order to get pregnant.

In general, many of us -- inspired by Hollywood -- just feel younger and healthier than ever before, but that doesn't always ensure pregnancy. As Dr. William Schoolcraft told Today:

People kind of think now at 40 what they used to think at 30. People do yoga and they run and they do all these healthy things. They assume that means ‘I’m not aging.’ But their eggs don’t know that.

I can't say I find any of this surprising. When my husband and I decided it was time to get pregnant for the first time, I truly had no clue about how long it would take -- and I was still in my 20s. I thought it would happen right away, but I was very wrong. I'm sure I'd learned it somewhere along the way, but I was somehow shocked to learn about the limited window there was to actually make that sperm meet the egg each month. Here I'd thought I was at risk of getting pregnant with every sneeze my whole life.

I was absolutely flunking fertility math, and it took years of education and infertility before everything came together and we finally got pregnant. We likely could have sped up the process -- and saved a lot of heartache -- if I had just been a little more educated.

So what do you need to know? Here are a few fast facts about fertility from RESOLVE. You can see their website for plenty more information as well as resources:

  • At age 30 a healthy woman only has about a 20% chance of conceiving, and by the time a women reaches 40, her chances drop to about 5% per month.
  • Infertility affects 7.3 million people in the U.S. This figure represents 12% of women of childbearing age, or 1 in 8 couples. (2002 National Survey of Family Growth)
  • Approximately one-third of infertility is attributed to the female partner, one-third attributed to the male partner, and one-third is caused by a combination of problems in both partners or is unexplained. (
  • A couple ages 29-33 with a normal functioning reproductive system has only a 20-25% chance of conceiving in any given month. (National Women’s Health Resource Center) After six months of trying, 60% of couples will conceive without medical assistance. (Infertility As A Covered Benefit, William M. Mercer, 1997)
  • Approximately 44% of women with infertility have sought medical assistance. Of those who seek medical intervention, approximately 65% give birth. (Infertility As A Covered Benefit, William M. Mercer, 1997)

How is your fertility math?

Image via David Boyle/Flickr

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