After five years of marriage, 31-year-old Erin Riggio and her husband jetted off to Italy on a second honeymoon of sorts--and they left their birth control behind. Yet their two-week coastal tour wasn't quite a baby-making trip. Sure, she popped a folic-acid vitamin every day--you know, just in case--but she also indulged in plenty of pinot grigio.
"We weren't exactly trying to get pregnant," says the book editor from Chesapeake, Virginia. But they weren't exactly trying not to get pregnant either.
Erin, like about a quarter of women ages 25 to 45, had adopted a passive attitude toward family planning--she wasn't gunning for a child, but she also wasn't carefully avoiding having one. In fact, women with this "maybe baby" mentality have come to outnumber those actively trying to get pregnant by a whopping four to one, according to a study in Maternal and Child Health Journal. "I now see patients all the time who are ambivalent about pregnancy," says Pennsylvania-based clinical psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness.
Thanks to a host of seemingly viable backup plans--egg freezing, new and improved in vitro fertilization (IVF), genetic embryo testing--many women no longer feel the urgency to conceive during their younger years. Indeed, IVF rates alone have more than doubled in the past decade, says Margareta Pisarska, M.D., director of the Center for Fertility and Reproductive Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
But it's not all about medical helping hands: Social pressures surrounding pregnancy have changed dramatically in the past few decades, says clinical psychologist Michelle P. Maidenberg, Ph.D., of Harrison, New York. "Women used to feel pressure to become pregnant within a year of getting married--two years, maximum," she says. But a troubled economy and shifting breadwinner roles have stamped out old stigmas about delayed family plans. For some, the resulting relief has helped usher in a blase attitude about having a baby.
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