Complaining about new generations is a popular trend; millennials are always dealing with some type of backlash. Recently, there has been discussion around possible barriers preventing millennials from having children. And, while it's good to address those barriers, it's also time to look at stats on infertility in millennials.
In a May 2018 study, the CDC found that birth rates in the United States fell 2 percent from 2016 to 2017. Overall, 3.85 million babies were born in the US in 2017, marking the fewest births since 1987.
Why weren't millennials having kids? For some, it's entirely a matter of personal choice. As a generation wracked with student loan debt, many millennials simply cannot afford the $233,610 it costs to raise a child. Although that breaks down to $12,350 to $13,900 annually (calculated at the value of a dollar in 2015), that is still an extraordinary amount of money. In 2017, Forbes reported that the average student in a college class of 2016 graduated with a grand total of $37,172 in student loan debt.
But aside from simply looking at the cost of having a child, some millennials are struggling with infertility.
Infertility, defined as the inability to get pregnant after a year or longer of unprotected sex by the CDC, isn't uncommon. The CDC notes that about 6 percent of married women aged 15 to 44 years in the United States have experienced infertility. In addition, the CDC reports about 12 percent of women aged 15 to 44 years in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, regardless of marital status; this is defined as impaired fecundity.
But, discussions around infertility often exclude those experiencing what's known as secondary infertility. The Mayo Clinic describes secondary infertility as the "inability to become pregnant or to carry a baby to term after previously giving birth to a baby."
Estimates from the National Center of Health Statistics show that possibly more than three million women of childbearing age in the United States are experiencing secondary infertility. Although the numbers are not broken down by generations, it is still a shockingly high number. According to the Huffington Post, age can be a common factor in secondary infertility, but it's not the only cause.
The Mayo Clinic notes the following possible causes for secondary infertility:
Fallopian tube damage, ovulation disorders, endometriosis and uterine conditions in women
Complications related to prior pregnancy or surgery
Risk factor changes for you or your partner, such as age, weight and use of certain medications
In a country that demonstrates how it doesn't really know what to do with mothers — for example, through the increasing rate of C-sections, many of them reportedly unnecessary — it's no surprise that such a high number of women are experiencing secondary infertility. According to Stat News, one in three births in the United States happen by C-section.
It's a rate that has risen dramatically over the past few decades. In 1970, 5 percent of births happened by C-section; in 1996, it was 20 percent, according to the CDC.
Though we need more research on infertility in millennials, one thing we can currently do is ensure conversations about millennials not having children don't revolve around their alleged selfishness or laziness.
At the end of the day, someone not having kids can be an entirely personal decision, which they don't deserve to be harassed for. But going forward, it's also important to remember millennials who are experiencing different forms of infertility. By doing so, the public can walk away with a wider understanding of what, exactly, is behind these lowered birth rates.