The study is the latest research from the ground-breaking Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH).
Now in its 16th year, the ALSWH has surveyed over 40,000 women drawn from three age groups. Women in the youngest age group – born between 1973 and 1978 – were aged 18 to 23 when the first survey was made in 1996 and 28 to 33 when Survey 4 was conducted in 2006.
Report co-author Associate Professor Jayne Lucke from the School of Population Health at The University of Queensland said that the report provided an interesting insight into women’s desires for children.
The report found that 91 per cent of the women wanted to have children but at the time they were surveyed in 2006, aged 28 to 33, only half had a child.
For every 10 women, five had at least one child, four had not been pregnant and one had been pregnant but lost the baby.
More than a third (39 per cent) of women who had a child also reported having had a pregnancy loss at some time.
“Women do want children, but circumstances sometimes intervene,” said Associate Prof Lucke.
The report found that one in six women experienced fertility problems and of these women two-thirds had sought advice but only half had pursued fertility treatment.
Marriage remains on the agenda for most women, and this has remained consistent over time.
Women who hoped for marriage were more likely to want two or more children compared to other women.
While the most common desire was for two children, the number of women aiming for just one child increased over time as they grew older.
“Decisions to have fewer children reflect the later ages at which women are having their first child, as well as other aspects of their lives such as career aspirations and whether they have a partner” said Associate Professor Lucke.
“The report highlights the ongoing need for support for women who are or want to become mothers.”
The ALSWH has been funded by the Commonwealth Government through the Department of Health and Ageing since 1995.
The Director of ALSWH, UQ’s Professor Annette Dobson, said the research provided an evidence-base to Government to assist health policy and programs to keep pace with the evolving needs of Australian women.
The report “Reproductive Health: Findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health” is available at the ALSWH website: http://www.alswh.org.au/events.html or the Department of Health and Ageing website: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ALSWH-report
Media: For interviews contact Associate Professor Jayne Lucke on 0433 021 371 or (07) 3365 5359.