And another thing: Fertility a concern for women who chose to pursue career

Babies vs. career.

Women live in a world today where they are increasingly forced to choose one or the other.

For years, women have been under the impression that they could wait until they were in their late 30s and even their 40s to have a child, but new research has reopened the debate for those career-driven women who believe time is on their side.

Here are some startling facts I discovered while reading a recent TIME article on women and fertility:

*27 is the age at which a woman's chances of getting pregnant begin to decline.

*By 35, a women has an 18 percent chance of miscarriage; the number doubles again by the time a woman reaches her early 40s.

*At 42, 90 percent of a woman's eggs are abnormal; she has less than an 8 percent chance of having a baby without using donor eggs.

*Recent census data reveals that 47 percent of women who hold a graduate or professional degree and are between the ages of 40 and 44 are childless.

Now, I can understand there are those of you who are uncertain as to why I would write about reproduction when:

a) Most women in college are...well, fertile.

b) Many women in college can barely decide what to wear in the morning, let alone when they will one day make the decision to have a child.

and

c) All of us in college (men and women included) have been taught lessons time and time again on safe sex and how NOT to get pregnant.

I get your point, but bear with me. Because the last time I checked, none of us are getting any younger.

At some point in time, the majority of us are going to want to start a family. I know lots of students consider children as a factor in life's equation that will come years from now (like when you are married, have money and a stable job under your belt), but soon such choices will be upon us.

Time flies, and as much as I am not an advocate for young mothers, I certainly hope today's generation of twenty-somethings understand the startling reality about their own fertility.

We are misled by those few women who are fortunate to have it all. We see far too many 45 year-old actresses (Madonna being one of them) who have managed to give birth after their prime. And from these women, we are caught in the mindset that age doesn't have to matter when it comes to having a child.

And maybe it doesn't. Maybe there are enough women out there who will continue to put off having children and who won't mind the potential failure at not being able to conceive, nor the thousands of dollars that will have to be spent in order to be with child. But I know for the majority of us, such will not be a conscious choice.

Successful women who have gone to college and now have a career believe the hard part is over. They've gotten the degree. They've stuck their foot in the door of Corporate America and made a name for themselves. Getting pregnant is the easy part, right?

As more and more accomplished women are finding out, the more common answer is wrong.

As I read the TIME article and gave my mind a minute to digest its revealing statistics, I felt confused and misled. I was definitely not included in the 13 percent of women who correctly guessed 27 as the age when fertility declines. Instead, I was in the 39 percent who incorrectly chose over 40 as my answer.

I know I am extremely fortunate to be a woman who will soon hold a college degree and be out on my own, but I'm also a woman who understands that money is not everything and that someday I want a family to call my own. Lately I've given a lot of thought to how difficult it will be to give up my career in order to have a child (because I don't want someone else raising my son or daughter).

Will I be able to do it? I hope so -- both emotionally and financially. But what if I can't? What if I am forced to work because my family needs that second income? (again, more often this is becoming the case).

There are thousands of women who are in this situation and must contend with the guilt that can result when they are not the first person to be there for their child when he or she mumbles a first word or takes a first step. I hope I don't have to be one of them, but like a small portion of women my age who have given thought to the future, I'm afraid of the possibility.

So where am I going with all of this? Am I encouraging women my age to go out now and get pregnant? No. Am I saying you can't work and still have a child -- let alone a happy one? No, because I know many who have done it.

What I do want young women to be aware of is the race they may face someday against their own biological clock.

Because one day, a handful of us may find ourselves in a doctor's office. We may sit there and listen as a doctor tells us we're wasting his time, that we can no longer conceive. We may feel cheated by a cruel world, shocked and angry to have learned a harsh truth in the hardest way possible.

But we can no longer sit there and say we haven't been forewarned.

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