FERTILITY5050: The changing story of conception

July saw the launch of our new male fertility supplement, FERTILITY+. As part of our preparations, we wanted to find out more about people’s attitude towards conception, so in June we carried out a sweeping survey of 2, 052 people to find out exactly what they think on a whole range of related topics.

The results were truly surprising. The FERTILITY5050 survey gives a fascinating insight into the evolving world of fertility, and the journey millennials are taking towards parenthood.

Up the aisle or on the shelf?

A finding which will not greatly surprise readers is that younger generations are more prone to conceiving a child outside of marriage and while single. The standout statistic here is the rate of singles and those in casual relationships becoming pregnant, with 18% of under-30s saying that they conceived under these circumstances – nearly double the percentage of over 40s who did so (whenever in their life they became pregnant).

The evolving family: the same, but different

The rate of couples being married when they conceive fell significantly between the 30-34 age bracket and the under 30 bracket – a big change in less than a decade.

It is striking that, despite these changes in attitude and practice, familiar relationship types still endure in a more modern form.

When we look at couples in any kind of long term relationship, we see a drop from 71 % among over-40s to 62% among under-30s. There’s no doubt about it: that’s a substantial drop. But it paints a less stark picture of generational division in family circumstances than the marriage figures alone may demonstrate. Factors such as the cost of a wedding in times where younger families may struggle to make ends meet could be contributing to the broader trend of long-term unmarried living.

Costly delays, timely actions

Some health professionals worry that people are delaying pregnancy until later in life, which can impact the chances of successful conception. FERTILITY5050 revealed the plight of older people who are waiting for a baby. Over a fifth of our over 40 group had been trying for their first child for more than 18 months, without success.

The reliability of this data is difficult to establish because of the low sample size, so to get a better handle on the trends we looked at the data for people who have successfully conceived. We found that that 30 was the crucial age, beyond which conception becomes a lengthier process.

The clear difference in experience between couples in their twenties and those just a few years into their thirties is a revelation, especially as more people choose to have their first baby later. The Office for National Statistics records a trend of declining conception rates for ages 25 to 29 and increasing rates for ages 30 to 34.

Yet we were given hope by the revelation that people in the 30-34 age bracket were much more active than older generations in taking lifestyle steps to improve the chances of successful conception. The clearest trend we observed was the decline in both men and women making no lifestyle changes when in the process of conceiving – that has almost halved from 39% for over 40s to 27% for 30-34s. People aged 30-34 were the most active in taking steps to help conception.

This shift could reflect a greater understanding of the fertility problems that modern lifestyles can cause, or a combination of greater awareness, education and confidence affecting their reproductive choices.

You can find out more about FERTILITY+, and view the full survey results, on our dedicated FERTILITY5050 page.

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