Carly Leahy, Co-founder of Modern Fertility and VP of Brand, Women’s Health at Ro
I’m so excited to share that for Infertility Awareness Week this year, Modern Fertility and Bumble are coming together to launch our Modern State of Fertility report — a deep dive on how attitudes toward dating and fertility are shifting.
We started our Modern State of Fertility report in Modern Fertility’s earliest year of operation as a way to go deep on how fertility intersects with our modern lives. We’re big believers that fertility is a conversation much bigger than having babies — it’s at the crux of most all important life areas: careers, finances, relationships, lifestyles, and more. The Modern State of Fertility is now our annual flagship report — and we’re fortunate to have partnered on it with some incredible companies: Glamour, SoFi, Zola, and now this year, Bumble, the world’s leading women-first dating and social networking app.
Over the years in building these reports, we’ve heard many stories about how fertility conversations are happening earlier and earlier — even while dating. Our 2022 Modern State of Fertility zeroes in on that: how soon people are ready to talk about kids in the dating process, as well as openness to building "non-traditional" families, the rank order of priorities when it comes to partner selection, and how egg-freezing impacts dating.
We partnered with Bumble to survey over 6,600 people about how they’re bending all the “rules” with fertility and dating. This was the first year that male-identifying people were included as survey participants in the report — the opportunity to understand the nuanced differences within these topics seemed especially profound. That said, when we reference “women” and “men” throughout the report, we are referring to anyone who identified as a man or a woman, whether they are cisgender, trans, or have ovaries or sperm.
So what did people have to say? Here’s a sample of some of the stand-out themes:
Having kids is no longer seen as essential to living a fulfilled life
It seems widely known that people are now delaying family planning in favor of other pursuits — hobbies, careers, financial goals, travel, and this appears to be playing out in the numbers
78% of respondents don’t think that having kids is essential to living a fulfilled life. Men are slightly more likely to think kids *are* essential: 33% of men agreed with this statement vs. 27% of women.
Also, about 1 in 5 respondents (19%) said that they don’t want kids or are unsure about kids. Perhaps that’s maybe why 2 in 3 of the respondents (67%) said that they don’t think that family planning plays a significant role in their dating choices or dating life.
One of our community members put it well, “I’m undecided on having kids because I know I’m a people-pleaser at heart, and this is one decision I want to arrive at on my own, and not because I’m trying to make family or friends happy.”
When it comes to choosing a partner, women and men say that aligned values and financial goals are more important than aligned family planning.
Men and women agreed that having kids isn’t the first or even second most important thing when they’re choosing a partner.
Perhaps surprising, family planning alignment ranked lower on women’s the list of priorities (#4) than it did for men (#3). And aligned career stability was the third most important factor for women — but that didn’t even crack the top four for male respondents.
Women are open to becoming single-parents-by-choice via assisted reproductive technology and adoption. Men? Not so much.
A key trend we’ve been tracking is openness to becoming a single parent by choice, something we’ve followed with our Modern State of Fertility reports (this was a standout finding in 2021!) and through the growth of our single-parent-by-choice channel in the Modern Community. The trend appears to be accelerating dramatically — 53% of women who want kids said they’re open to single parenthood via ART and/or adoption. Only 16% of men who want kids said the same.
Another interesting finding: 57% of respondents who want kids say they’re open to having kids via ART, and men seem more open to it. Of the respondents who want kids, 78% of men are open to having biological kids using some assisted reproductive technology (i.e. through artificial insemination or IVF), compared with 53% of women. Additionally 42% of men said they’re open to having biological kids (or more kids) with a partner through a surrogate, vs 23% of women.
For many, fertility is now a first-date convo
Of all the respondents, 1 in 3 (35%) said they’re comfortable bringing up fertility within the first few dates. That’s pretty awesome, but not necessarily surprising when you consider that people don’t necessarily see marriage as a precursor to having kids, and how delaying family planning can require even more upfront alignment (if kids are even in the plans at all).
That said, our survey results showed that men are more likely to talk about fertility earlier on while dating. Of the respondents who want kids 78% of men said they feel comfortable talking about kids on the first few dates vs. 48% of women, and 81% of men said they’ll share that in their dating profile, vs. only 48% of women. This could be because men are increasingly open to talking about fertility, or it could be because women are more reserved due to prevailing stigmas about seeming “baby crazy” (sigh). Most likely, it’s a mix of both of those things.
Finally — COVID has changed the intersection of fertility + dating, just like it’s changed just about everything else. Of the unpartnered respondents who want kids, 1 in 4 (27%) want to move quicker with dating and relationships since the pandemic, because they now want to catch up for lost time. Nearly a third (29%) report being more upfront about family planning goals since the pandemic, because they feel like they want to make up for lost time.
Perhaps the overall finding of this report is that gender roles have shifted and there is no prevailing pathway between fertility and dating — the norm is that there is no norm. Plans for kids (or not kids) is still a piece of the pie when it comes to choosing a partner and building the lives we want, but the pie is getting bigger and that means more and more competing priorities and ways of doing things.
We think it's high time to put those “baby crazy” stereotypes to rest and support people in doing what’s best for them, knowing that will look different for each of us.
Want to learn more about the trends from our 2022 Modern State of Fertility report with Bumble? Join the Modern Community and come to our online event where I’m talking to Priti Joshi, VP of Strategy and Operations at Bumble, about what we found, with plenty of time for Q&A. Hope to see you there!