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Birth Control   ::   Having Children  ::   Sexual Relations   ::   Resources

Deciding When to Have Children

Discussion and Examples: The Whether and When of Children

Reliable methods of birth control have made it quite easy for many couples to determine whether and/or when they want to have children. A majority of couples who get married hope to and plan on having children some day, although there are a growing number of couples who are deciding to remain voluntarily child-free for a variety of reasons. Deciding when or even whether to have children is a serious issue and it becomes even more difficult if you and your partner are not in agreement on the matter. The number of children a couple wants to have is another issue that requires serious thought and consideration, but we will not address that here. Couples who are serious enough in their relationship to discuss having children will face one of four scenarios with regard to that decision.

  1. Both partners want children and they want them at the same time - This is not a problem because the couple is in agreement. For example, Corbin and Sarah decided to begin their family immediately after getting married, whereas James and Kathie decided to wait three years before having their first child. Although they had children at different times, both couples were in agreement on having children and when to have them.
  2. Both partners want children but they don't agree on when to have them - This is a serious yet solvable issue. The desire to have children together is fundamentally a more important issue than when to have them. Through communication and compromise a couple in this situation should be able to work things out. For example, Bill and Jen were married while they were in college. Bill wanted to have children as soon as he and Jen both graduated. Jen really wanted to go to graduate school so she did not want to have any children until she finished school. She and Bill agreed to wait a couple more years until she was done with all of her schooling.
  3. One partner wants children but the other partner does not - This is a serious difference of opinion that will impact both partner's hopes, dreams, and goals for the future. A couple in this situation will have to come to a mutual compromise that they both can live with or they may decide to look for another partner that shares their desire to have children or not. For example, Hillary and Jacob were planning on getting married until they began discussing their family plans for the future. Hillary had a strong desire to have children and Jacob was adamant that he did not want any. He felt there were too many drawbacks and too much responsibility involved with having a child. After many painful and heartfelt discussions on the matter, Hillary and Jacob split-up.
  4. Neither partner wants children and they decide to remain child-free - This is generally not a problem because the couple is in agreement. For example, prior to getting married, John and Ellen talked openly and honestly about their desires not to have any children. Although John came from a family of 10 siblings and Ellen came from a family of 2 siblings, neither of them felt like that was what they wanted for themselves. After discussing it with Ellen, John decided to have a vasectomy prior to their marriage to ensure that they would not have any children. John and Ellen have been married for over 10 years now and they remain happy with their decision.

Discussion: What if We Can't Have Children?

If you are having trouble getting pregnant or remaining pregnant, you are not alone. You and your partner may be suffering from problems associated with infertility. Infertility is not uncommon. It affects 10 percent of all couples and it can be male or female related. Infertility is a condition of the reproductive system that is usually diagnosed after a couple has one year of unprotected, well-timed intercourse or if the woman suffers from multiple miscarriages. However, waiting a year when you want to become pregnant can be very stressful so you may want to consider consulting your doctor sooner if you seem to be having trouble.

Since infertility strikes diverse groups-affecting people from all socioeconomic levels and cuts across all racial, ethnic and religious lines- chances are great that a friend, relative, neighbor or perhaps you are attempting to cope with the medical and emotional aspects of infertility.

Discussion: Potential Reasons for Fertility Problems

Here are a few things to consider if you and your partner are having difficulty becoming pregnant. It is a good idea to consult a doctor, other medical professional, and/or the resources listed below for additional help.

  • Age - Couples delaying childbearing is one of the biggest contributors to fertility problems. Both partners fertility diminishes with age, but women are particularly susceptible to age related effects on fertility.
  • Health History - Past or present illnesses, diseases, surgeries, and medications can all contribute to fertility problems.
  • Sexual Education - If you are trying to get pregnant it is important to have intercourse at the times when you are most likely to conceive. A woman's most fertile period begins a few days before the middle of her cycle. This can be calculated by taking the average length of her menstrual cycle (usually around 28 days) and subtracting 17 days. That is a woman peak fertility time and the time when she is most likely to become pregnant.
  • Lifestyle - Living a healthy lifestyle contributes to increased fertility. Eat good foods, get plenty of rest, and manage your stress. Avoid smoking, alcohol, caffeine, and recreational drugs.


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Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, November 28). Sexual Relations. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License