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Public Perception of Female Fertility Examined

Arch Sex Behav; 2018 Jul; Jensen, Martins, et al

More highly educated individuals perceived female fertility to manifest over a longer period of time as compared to individuals with less education, according to a recent study that examined public perception of the female fertility timeline. The timeline was assessed via a national survey of US adults (n=990) ranging in age from 18 to 89 years. Researchers found:

  • Although there is no scientific consensus on the makeup of the female fertility timeline, results indicate that the US public posits fertility onset at (approximately) 13 years, peak fertility at 22, ideal first pregnancy age at 23, too late for pregnancy at 46, and infertility at 49.
  • Education was significantly related to fertility perceptions; those with more education perceived initial fertility to be lower and peak fertility and ideal pregnancy age to be higher.
  • Black and Hispanic participants and participants with lower income perceived ideal first pregnancy age as significantly lower than did white participants and participants with higher income.
  • These differences may suggest that the seeds of health disparities associated with phenomena such as adolescent pregnancy are lurking in fertility timeline perceptions.


Jensen RE, Martins N, Parks MM. Public perception of female fertility: Initial fertility, peak fertility, and age-related infertility among U.S. adults. Arch Sex Behav. 2018;47(5):1507-1516. doi:10.1007/s10508-018-1197-4.