Variation in Self-Perceived Fecundity among Young Adult U.S. Women

Alison Gemmill, Erica Sedlander, Marta Bornstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Individuals’ perceptions of their fecundity, or biological ability to bear children, have important implications for health behaviors, including infertility help-seeking and contraceptive use. Little research has examined these perceptions among U.S. women. Methods: This cross-sectional study examines perceptions of one's own fecundity among U.S. women aged 24 to 32 who participated in the 2009–2011 rounds of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1997) cohort. Analyses were limited to 3,088 women who indicated that they or their partners never received a doctor's diagnosis regarding fertility difficulties. Results: Of the women in the sample, 67% perceived their hypothetical chances of becoming pregnant as very likely; the remainder perceived their chances as somewhat likely (13%), not as likely (15%), or provided a “don't know” response (6%). Twenty-six percent of Black women and 19% of Latina women perceived themselves as not very likely to become pregnant, compared with only 12% among non-Black/non-Latina women (p < .001). Only 6% of women with a college degree perceived their chances of becoming pregnant as not very likely, compared with 36% among women without a high school degree (p < .001). Racial/ethnic and educational differences persisted in fully adjusted models. Other factors associated with fecundity self-perceptions include partnership status, parity, fertility expectations, sexual activity, prolonged exposure to unprotected intercourse for at least 6 and/or 12 months without becoming pregnant, and self-rated health. Conclusions: Findings indicate that self-perceived fecundity differs systematically by demographic and other characteristics. This phenomenon should be investigated further to understand how it may influence disparities in health behaviors and outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-39
Number of pages9
JournalWomen's Health Issues
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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