Australians are losing track of their biological clock, thanks largely to the high-profile pregnancies of ageing celebrities.
Many people believe it is usual and easy to become pregnant in their forties, says Louise Johnson, a spokeswoman for a coalition of health and science groups.
They want to get the message across that a woman’s fertility starts to decline in her early thirties.
A 40-year-old woman has five per cent chance of conceiving in any given month, says Ms Johnson.
Media stories about miracle babies born to older celebrities often neglect to mention the use of donor eggs, she says.
This has contributed to the misconception that IVF will help couples have a baby at any age.
However, for every IVF cycle in Australia in 2011, fewer than seven per cent of women aged 40 to 44 who were using their own eggs had a baby.
For women over 45 the success rate was below two per cent.
A study by the coalition shows 80 per cent of Australians do not know a woman’s fertility declines before the age of 35.
The study also shows a large proportion of people think the decline starts at 40 or that age does not affect fertility.
There is also a lack of understanding that male fertility also declines with age.
People in higher socio-economic circumstances are more likely to have the wrong idea than those in lower socio-economic circumstances, says Ms Johnson.
“We want people to know the facts so they can make informed choices.
“There is a belief that if you are healthy you fertility will be fine. But sadly health does not trump age.”
Bringing plans for a family one or two years forward can make all the difference.
It’s basic biology, she says. But the focus at school is about birth control and avoiding infections. Less attention is paid to fertility.