Background: In the USA, the postponement of childbearing reflects contemporary social norms of delaying marriage, pursing educational goals and securing economic stability prior to attempting conception. Although university students are more likely to delay childbearing, it is unclear to what extent they are aware of age-related fertility decline. The current study is the first of its kind to assess fertility awareness and parenting attitudes of American undergraduate university students.
Methods: Two-hundred forty-six randomly selected undergraduate university students (138 females and 108 males) completed an online self-report survey adapted from the Swedish Fertility Awareness Questionnaire. Students were evenly distributed between the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes with a mean age of 20.4 years.
Results: Participants wanted to have their first and last child within the window of a woman's fertility. However, participants demonstrated a lack of fertility awareness by vastly overestimating the age at which women experience declines in fertility, the likelihood of pregnancy following unprotected intercourse and the chances that IVF treatments would be successful in the case of infertility. Nearly 9 in 10 participants want to have children in the future and viewed parenthood as a highly important aspect of their future lives.
Conclusions: Delaying childbearing based on incorrect perceptions of female fertility could lead to involuntary childlessness. Education regarding fertility issues is necessary to help men and women make informed reproductive decisions that are based on accurate information rather than incorrect perceptions.