Age and infertility

Science
J MenkenU Larsen

Abstract

Direct evidence on age patterns of infecundity and sterility cannot be obtained from contemporary populations because such large fractions of couples use contraception or have been sterilized. Instead, historical data are exploited to yield upper bounds applicable to contemporary populations on the proportions sterile at each age. Examination of recent changes in sexual behavior that may increase infecundity indicates that sexually transmitted infections, the prime candidate for hypothesized rises in infertility, are unlikely to have added to infecundity to any great extent. These results imply that a woman in a monogamous union faces only moderate increases in the probability of becoming sterile (or infecund) until her late thirties. Nevertheless, it appears that recent changes in reproductive behavior were guaranteed to result in the perception that infecundity is on the rise.

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