When Fertility's Not a Problem.

Regularly, someone tries to remind women that they can't have children after a certain age. This week's effort comes from Carolyn Butler in the Washington Post, who writes about a study published in a journal called PLoS ONE telling us that we have fewer eggs by 30 than previously thought.

Women start out with about 300,000 eggs, and the new study says they have 12 percent left at 30. After 35, fertility drops and potential problems rise every year, which I'm pretty sure we all already knew. Halfway through the piece, Butler quotes a scientist, Robert Stillman, and then rather belatedly tries to reassure us:

'This adds to the abundant evidence that for women, unfortunately, it's use 'em or lose 'em.'

Before you start freaking out, it's important to remember that even 30,000 or so eggs remaining at the start of your 30s is still a lot.

Doctors go on to talk about how this new information can help even healthy women, who may want to have children earlier if it's really important to them. But the entire article, along with most discussions on fertility, assumes women spend their 20s and 30s on this central question: to have now, or to have later. Some admit that the question might be more fundamental: to have, or not to have. Most of the time, you hear that women today delay motherhood to pursue educations and careers. But it's quite possible many aren't actively delaying it. Maybe many just aren't really thinking about motherhood in their 20s at all. When the question of when women should have the children everyone assumes they'll inevitably have is no longer central to these discussions, these discussions will finally catch up with women's lives.

-- Monica Potts

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