Students at an Australian college are clueless about the limits of their fertility, according to a new study published in the journal Human Fertility. Researchers who surveyed more than 1,200 students at a university in Melbourne, Australia, found less than half could identify the age at which a woman’s fertility declines, and fewer than 1 in 5 could do the same for a man’s fertility.
“Our study shows university students overwhelmingly want to be parents, but most have an unrealistic expectation of what they will achieve prior to conception,” lead researcher Eugenie Prior of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority in Melbourne told The New York Times. The study noted many women reported wanting to have children but planned to postpone childbearing until they had finished their education, climbed the career ladder, had access to child care and flexible work, and had done all the traveling they wanted to do without children.
But it turns out it’s hard to get it all done before declining fertility sets in. Unbeknownst to most students, a woman’s fertility declines between the ages of 35 and 39, and a man’s fertility declines between 45 and 49.
Though mostly wrong, Australian students were more accurate than American students—just 14 percent of men and 24 percent of women knew the age a woman’s fertility declines when asked the same questions in 2012. One-third of Australian students also overestimated the success rates of in vitro fertilization as a last-ditch effort. In reality, just 5 percent of women over age 40 have a baby after one round of IVF.
Prior said it was worrying that students were making decisions about timing childbearing without accurate information about the effects of age on fertility. —K.C.