For decades, women’s reproductive capacity has been treated as a problem to be solved. But women, armed with new knowledge of old truths, are starting to fight back. Natural fertility tracking is on the rise, and fertility coaches are garnering large followings on social media as skepticism surrounding hormonal contraceptives grows.

Despite decades of “sex education,” American women are strikingly uninformed about their fertility. While half of women say they track their menstrual cycles, 37 percent do so using an app, taking advantage of the tech but often with little understanding of their cycle’s impact on their body. Additionally, 20 percent of US women surveyed were unaware of the effects of age on their fertility. Rather than helping women understand when they are fertile, doctors have encouraged them to prevent the natural functioning of their bodies through hormonal contraception.

Hormonal contraceptives are by far the most common option—of the 65 percent of American women on contraceptives, a fifth use hormonal contraceptives, and only 8 percent use condoms; the rest opt for sterilization. All these methods are, according to the British Pregnancy Advisory Board, “routinely promoted.” A 2021 study commissioned by menstrual education charity Period found that 76 percent of US students are taught more about the biology of frogs than the human female body in school.

The results have been widespread ignorance. In Britain, a third of women surveyed in 2022 stated they had no understanding of their menstrual cycle. Indeed, young women are not only uninformed about their cycles, but about when they will lose their fertility. Fertility plummets at an accelerated clip in your 30s. At 40, the chance of getting pregnant within the year is less than 50 percent. When natural conception fails, there is in vitro fertilization for those who can afford an expensive and grueling process. It requires multiple appointments and blood tests, a strict diet and the forswearing of alcohol, and several days off work for the egg retrieval and embryo transfer in the space of about four weeks—with a success rate of around 25 percent for women who have reached their mid-30s.

Get the best of Compact right in your inbox.

Sign up for our free newsletter today.

Great! Check your inbox and click the link.
Sorry, something went wrong. Please try again.