Neither one of us is a mom. But that doesn't mean we don't think about our fertility. As 30-ish-year-old-women, we are, like many of you, bombarded by the reality of our own childlessness every day. We are surrounded by baby bumps and strollers on the subway and inundated with pregnancy announcements and pictures of 3-D sonograms on our social feeds. Targeted Facebook ads have suggested we should freeze our eggs; doctors—even well-intentioned acquaintances—have told us it would be better to freeze embryos. Tearful friends have divulged their miscarriages; one of us has suffered her own. Millennial women like us have been warned for years about the impending death of our fertility: Get pregnant now or forever hold your peace.
The most intimate of subjects, often accompanied by shame and confusion, fertility is rarely talked about openly. There’s an overwhelming amount of information available and, yet, not enough. Women don’t know who to talk to when things go awry, but strangers feel comfortable asking, “And when are you having kids?” the second you tie the knot. Many young women are still deciding if they even want children. Many more desperately do—but sometimes, it’s simply not that simple.
How do we change all this? We started with a survey. In partnership with SurveyMonkey, Marie Claire asked about 2,000 women to talk honestly about fertility. Though 17 percent of Millennial women told us they do not want children, 45 percent already have kids or are actively trying to conceive, and the remaining women said they plan to become mothers in the future. Still, 49 percent of Millennial women also said they had delayed having children because they were not financially ready—a number nearly twice that of Gen-X women. Millennials were more likely to delay childbearing than the generation above them for every response option, including focusing on their career (33 percent) and feeling like they hadn't yet found the right partner (26 percent).
When we're not delaying children, plenty of us are struggling to have them. More than one-third of respondents between ages 18 and 35 have suffered a fertility issue, whether that be a miscarriage, multiple miscarriages, or more than a year spent trying to conceive. It's a problem that knows no boundaries: Across ethnicities women were equally likely (within a few percentages points) to have gone through each of the aforementioned experiences with infertility, and more non-white women said they had undergone or were considering fertility treatments than their white peers. Nor is it a topic reserved for America's one-percent. Women with a household income below $75,000 are considering or pursuing therapies to help them get pregnant at nearly the same rate as households making more than $150,000.
So, no, having a baby when you want one isn't as easy as it seems (nearly a quarter of Millennial women said social media sets unrealistic expectations about fertility). Luckily, there are more ways to become a parent than ever before. While women ages 18 to 35 are more open than Gen-Xers to pursuing every fertility treatment option—including IVF (31 percent versus 25 percent), donor eggs (13 percent versus 4 percent), even surrogacy (23 percent versus 9 percent)—they were by far most interested in adoption. Forty-eight percent of Millennial women told us that if they found out they could not conceive naturally, they would or had considered adopting (just 34 percent of Gen-X women said the same).
We're here to commiserate—and, hopefully, help. We talked to top experts, doctors, and real patients to break down every aspect of a woman's potential fertility journey. When it comes to getting pregnant, there’s a lot that’s out of your control. But being informed isn't. So consider this your map for the zig-zagging path to parenthood. And just remember: This is supposedly the easy part.
Editors’ note: We use the terms “woman” and “female” in this article to refer to people with internal reproductive organs; however we understand that not everyone with internal reproductive organs identifies as a woman or a female. We use the terms “man” and “male” to refer to people with external reproductive organs; however we understand that not everyone with external reproductive organs identifies as a man or a male.
*This Survey Monkey survey was conducted August 9‐10, 2018 among a national sample of 1,999 adult women. Respondents for this survey were selected from over 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. Data have been weighted for age, race, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the UnitedStates age 18 and over.