Topic: Research

September 15, 2020

University students in Mexico City have low levels of fertility awareness and fewer want to have children than young people elsewhere in the world, according to a new study from Ball State University.

In her study, “Fertility awareness and parenting intentions among Mexican undergraduate and graduate university students,” Ball State’s Jean Marie Place, an associate professor of health education and health promotion in the College of Health, found that these students demonstrated poor fertility awareness, despite 80% reporting they were highly educated, educated, or somewhat educated on matters of fertility and reproduction.

Participants also demonstrated poor fertility awareness in terms of age and fertility, the probability of pregnancy following unprotected intercourse, and the likely success of assisted reproductive technologies in the event of infertility, she said.

Place notes that infertility, a disease characterized by the failure to establish a clinical pregnancy after 12 months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse, is a global problem. In 2010, it was estimated that 48.5 million couples experienced involuntary childlessness, of which 19.2 million were diagnosed with primary infertility (unable to have one child) and 29.3 million had secondary infertility (unable to have a second child).

Over the past 25 years, studies from around the world have shown that university students as well as men and women in the general population have low levels of fertility awareness, she said.

“Coupled with behavioral and lifestyle risk factors prevalent in Mexico, such as rising rates of obesity or untreated STIs, inaccurate perceptions of the relationship between age and fertility puts young people who delay childbearing at increased risk of involuntary childlessness,” Place said. “Improving fertility knowledge, on the other hand, has the potential to help young people work towards behavior changes which optimize fertility”

Place also noted it was surprising to discover that that only 48% of female and 59% of male university students in Mexico City planned to have children.

“Compared to fertility awareness studies around the world, this high level of participants who do not desire any biological children is unprecedented,” Place said. “It also contrasts with traditional Latin American values that emphasize familial bonds and relationships. It is possible that young Mexican university students do not conceptualize bearing biological children as integral to this view, or are leaving it behind in pursuit of value systems that do not emphasize building biological families.”

The level of education predicts differences in desired family size among Latina women in the United States, with more educated women desiring fewer children. It is also common for people in urban areas with high, concentrated populations to have low childbearing intention, as is the case in Mexico City with a population close to 25 million, she said.

The study also found:

  • About 75% of all participants overestimated the probability of couples having a live birth after undergoing one cycle of IVF.
  • Among those who desire children, about 71 percent of men and 55 percent of women wanted have their first child at age 30 or later.
  • In the event of infertility, participants had a higher preference not to have children or to pursue adoption rather than use in-vitro fertilization.

The study, which was posted in August by the peer-reviewed research journal, is the first paper on fertility awareness and parenting intentions among university students in Latin America.

Place and faculty from the Chapman University conducted a cross-sectional survey November 2017 and January 2018 to assess fertility awareness among 371 students attending the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City.