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Delaying kids, voluntary childlessness, and the future of fertility

Delaying kids, voluntary childlessness, and the future of fertility

5 min read

As you might’ve gleaned from our Modern State of Fertility: Careers & Money report — or even from personal experience — fertility and finance are pretty intrinsically connected. So much so that the top two reasons our survey respondents cited for delaying kids were related to money.

Do any other factors play a role in people’s decisions to have or not have kids? What does planning for and having kids look like in countries other than the US? How is the fertility landscape different today than it was in the past — and how might it continue to change?

Modern Fertility’s CEO and co-founder, Afton Vechery, sat down with Kinsey Grant from the Morning Brew’s podcast, Business Casual, to go deep on fertility, finance, and the future. We pulled some of our favorite excerpts from Afton’s answers below for easy reading.

On waiting longer to have kids (but biology staying the same)

Higher education and voluntary childlessness tend to overlap to the highest degree. We're in a society where having a family is a luxury as opposed to in previous generations, where you had to have kids to care for you when you were older or to work the farm. We're getting to a point where you can choose whether to have a kid or not and make an active decision.

Yet the age of menopause hasn't changed. The age of menopause for American women is, on average, 51 years old — and that number hasn't shifted.

As we make all of these decisions to delay, delay, delay, what we find is that when you might want to have your first or second kid is now overlapping with your menopausal transition. Yes, we have amazing solutions like IVF and egg freezing in the fertility field, but those are not totally accessible to the broader population. So you see this really interesting dynamic with a lot of these choices just not able to coexist with biology.”

On money and career as deciding factors

“We partnered with SoFi and surveyed women all across the US to understand the factors that are impacting decisions to have kids. The top two reasons had to do with money: 60% wanted to have more money saved, and 51% said that they were waiting to have a higher salary first. What was really interesting about that higher salary number is that whether you were making $20,000 a year or $200,000 a year, the desire to make more was still delaying your decision to have kids.

We're in this society that is so connected and we are constantly bombarded with all these other examples of where we need to get before doing X, or what we want to achieve before doing Y. There’s this constant I just want to do this thing, I want to travel to this place, I want to make this salary, I want to get this promotion, that's constantly delaying our decisions to take a step back and have kids.

I think with women prioritizing their careers and entering the workplace at higher rates than we have in previous generations, we're continuing to have other priorities (besides just having kids) stem into these larger societal and cultural shifts and trends.”

On the COVID-19 baby boom (or lack thereof)

“A lot of these trends and reasons for delaying were just exacerbated. With the economic uncertainty and joblessness and finances playing such a role in the decision to have kids to start, COVID just increased that uncertainty.

What we found is that so many more women and couples were choosing to delay their decision to have kids because of that uncertainty. Close seconds were uncertainty about the healthcare system — would it be safe to go in and meet with my OB-GYN? So this fertility boom that everyone was anticipating just hasn't really exploded the way that was hypothesized.”

On how US fertility stacks up, globally

“In the US, having a baby is not a right — it's a privilege. There's no national coverage for infertility. If you are actively trying to conceive and cannot, there is no government-sponsored plan that will step in and mandate or provide coverage to any type of infertility service. Individual employers can do that, there are certain state-mandated policies, but just nothing on that level. That is not the case in many countries across the globe.

The economic health of a country and developmentally where a country is do tie in to birth rate and number of kids per capita to a family, as we might expect. [Developed countries with better economic health have lower birth rates, while less developed countries with worse economic health have higher birth rates.] It's really interesting to see where the US stacks up.”

On the future of fertility

“So many women later in life think because they are healthy, because they go to yoga and drink green juice, that their fertility and reproductive health are on the same page. And as a society that focuses on preventing pregnancy in our education system as opposed to planning for it, as a society that has 15-minute well-visit appointments with your OB-GYN, it's really difficult to get into the nuances of family planning and that broader discussion. We haven't created the system or society that enables women and people with ovaries and men and couples to have the information at their fingertips to make an active decision.

When I look at the future of fertility, I think a lot of the conversation recently has centered around reproductive health treatments. We hear a ton of buzz around egg freezing. There are subway banners. It's talked about as this insurance policy, but I do not believe that egg freezing is going to be the technology that gains mass adoption. I think that we need more proactive information.”

On where Modern Fertility fits in

“[I] realized that I was waiting until later in life to start my own family. I went to my OB-GYN and I asked [to do fertility hormone testing], but they said that because I wasn't actively trying and failing to have a child that I couldn't get the test. So, I had to go into an infertility clinic.

When I finally got the information, it was so empowering to have that conversation with my partner, my doctor, and think about my timeline. That was really the information gap that created Modern Fertility. It was the fact that as I talked to more girlfriends about this experience, I realized that, culturally, we were entering this new phase where women wanted to talk and learn more about what was going on inside of their bodies so that they could own the decisions impacting their bodies and futures — whatever those decisions might be.

As we have so many more opportunities, so many more decisions to make, how can we have more information upfront to know and be an active participant in the trade-offs that we're making — or at least acknowledge that this is a trade-off or a decision? Not have this super reactive conversation about fertility down the line.”

Go here for the full conversation in podcast form, or watch a recording of the interview below:

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Sarah duRivage-Jacobs

Sarah duRivage-Jacobs is a writer and editor at Modern Fertility. She lives with her creamsicle cat, Jasper, in New York City and doesn't believe in the concept of TMI.

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