Seventy-five percent of college freshmen say that raising a family is an "essential or very important goal." But 55% of younger high-achieving women are childless at 35. And 89% of them think they'll be able to get pregnant into their forties.
OK, time out. It's easiest for a woman to conceive and deliver a healthy child in her twenties. Fertility declines slightly at 30, and more dramatically at 35. You may imagine that the waiting rooms of fertility clinics are packed with obese women smoking cigarettes. If so, you're wrong: they are filled with health-conscious women who work out and count calories. They are there because they're forty.
If having children is one of your dreams, it won't hurt to keep these facts in mind as you make decisions about careers and relationships. Remember that motherhood doesn't always happen when the time is right for you; there's a window of opportunity, then the window closes.
For some women, just as this window is closing, they feel an unexpected longing for a child. It saddens me each time a patient describes this—typically a student who always put career first, and is finally getting a Ph.D. at 38 or 40. She's thrilled to reach that milestone, but aches for another: to feel a new life inside her, to give birth.