Family planning is more complicated (and expensive) than ever. U.S. fertility rates are falling, choice is now legally threatened, and societal pressures mount continuously. Because of modern medical treatments, more Americans with fertility struggles can find help.
After speaking to 1,000 women, the team at Power has distilled the complicated and sensitive topic of modern fertility into tangible points of understanding. How many sense societal pressure to have children and do so naturally? And how willing are people to share their fertility struggles? An updated understanding of family planning requires insight from American women today.
In the U.S., certain states use language in their laws that would give legal and constitutional status to fertilized eggs prepared through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Having more than one fertilized egg is a standard IVF procedure, and extra embryos may no longer be able to be discarded or donated in a post-Roe world. Our research kicks off with a look into where IVF would be at risk if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The states that have already severely restricted abortion are often the same places where IVF will be in the greatest peril in a post-Roe world.
For instance, we discovered that Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Louisiana all have laws indicating the inability for IVF to continue operating as it does at present. Extra embryos would have the right to life, meaning the mother might have to carry every embryo to term instead of discarding or donating them, as typically occurs today.
Some states aren’t even waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision. Recently, Kentucky was the first to end almost all in-state abortions with some of the harshest restrictions in the entire country. However, IVF laws are in jeopardy beyond the South.
We also found that places like Washington D.C., Michigan, and Wisconsin had laws indicating that some current IVF procedures would no longer be legal in a post-Roe world. IVF clinics disposing of unused embryos could face severe legal consequences, as could the family. Assisted reproductive technologies result in the birth of 50,000 babies annually in the U.S. Clearly, the Supreme Court’s decision will affect the lives of thousands of Americans.
The decision to have a child is often a financial one. It costs about a quarter of a million dollars to raise one child in the U.S. Do American women feel like they have enough support to have a baby today? Take a look below.
Even when faced with a lack of choice, women generally feel prepared to have a baby, support-wise. The majority of women we spoke to — even those not in relationships — agreed that they would have access to adequate support were they to have a child right now. Those in relationships (80.3%) were much more likely to feel this way.
A larger income gave women a better sense of preparedness; however, even those earning $40,000 or less per year felt ready for a child more often than not. Unfortunately, the pandemic recently thwarted many potential mothers: 52% of women who wanted to have a baby specifically said that the pandemic stopped them from trying.
The state of the world reportedly influences the decision to rear children for 10% of Americans. Medical reasons and financial reasons also affect nearly 30% of people. The pandemic combines all three of these intense factors (environment, medical, financial).
Even the most confident and free-thinking people can still sense societal perceptions and pressures. We asked American women if they felt society expects them to have a child without needing fertility-based help, and their answers were eye-opening. They also shared how easy they think it is to get pregnant in today’s world.
Often, getting pregnant is easier said than done. On average, women trying to conceive have a 15% to 25% chance of conception per month. Age, irregular menstrual cycles, and certain medical conditions may also decrease a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant.
Despite these factors and others, many people assume the process is simple. Nearly 7 in 10 Gen Zers thought it’s easy for a person to have a baby if they want one. Of course, many older women know the reality from first-hand experience. One 35-year-old respondent expressed that women shouldn’t feel ashamed for seeking help when the process turns out to be difficult. Sadly, many women today (70%) still think that society expects them to have a child without needing outside help.
Fertility struggles are incredibly common in the U.S. American women frequently turn to medical interventions like those detailed below.
For those trying to get pregnant today, fertility treatments are more likely than not to be a part of the process: 3 in 4 women reported using at least one treatment to become pregnant.
The fertility treatments most often used were natural cycle IVF (39.8%), artificial insemination (34.1%), and IVF (32.4%). But these options do not come cheap, nor were they typically covered by respondents’ health insurance plans. IVF costs range from $15,000 to $30,000, and the procedure offers no guarantee. On average, IVF treatments result in live births 50% of the time for women under age 35.
Gen X is experiencing a particularly frustrating time with family planning. Currently aged between 42 and 57, the biological clock of this generation is under immense pressure, while the pandemic’s timing makes things even worse. This generation was the most likely to say the pandemic worsened their fertility fears. One Gen X respondent shared, “I had to learn to live with not having a child. There is no quick fix for coping with it.”
While women generously and bravely shared their struggles in this study, it’s important to note that there are other, more readily available options for anyone wanting support in their fertility journey. Below, women share their preferred online communities for this exact type of support.
Nearly a third of women took to the internet to find support and guidance on fertility. While there is certainly misinformation to be wary of online, many women were looking for social and emotional support in their research rather than facts and figures.
Social media, particularly Facebook (62.2%) and Instagram (54.4%), were the most common platforms for this type of support. Their effectiveness drove their popularity: as one woman explained, “Unless you’ve struggled with fertility, you just can’t really comprehend the loneliness and sadness.”
Social media can help connect people who genuinely understand fertility struggles, even though most women reported feeling embarrassed to look for help. If Facebook and Instagram aren’t for you, many women also recommended the Reddit thread r/tryingforababy.
Having a family, by definition, doesn’t happen alone, nor should the journey to get there. The majority of women today rely on fertility treatments, support groups, and laws hanging by a thread to make their dreams of motherhood come true. However, despite how common fertility struggles are, most women still report societal pressures, feelings of embarrassment, and pandemic-related concerns.
In spite of this grim backdrop, women are turning out in incredible numbers to support one another and open up about their struggles.
This study uses survey data from 1,013 women in the U.S. who are currently trying or have tried to have a baby in the past year. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 55, with an average age of 33. For short, open-ended questions, outliers were removed. Survey data has certain limitations related to self-reporting. These limitations include telescoping, exaggeration, and selective memory.
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21.5% of all women are directly impacted by Roe v. Wade, which prohibits states from banning abortion.
84.5% of all americans are directly impacted by Griswold v. Connecticut, which prohibits states from banning contraception.
7.1% of all americans are directly impacted by Lawrence v. Texas & Obergefell v. Hodges, which make same-sex sexual activity and marriage legal.
Family planning doesn’t have to happen alone. Sharing information and support can make decisions and conversations much easier. If you think your audience would benefit from this research, you are welcome to share it with them. Just be sure your purposes are noncommercial and that you link back to this page.