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Human fecundity: situation and outlook


  • Henri Leridon


The probability that a woman having unprotected sexual intercourse will conceive over an ovulation cycle, also known as fecundability, is no more than 20-25% on average. A couple with "normal" fecundity generally takes several months to achieve a pregnancy. This long waiting time is due in part to high fetal mortality, since more than half of all conceptions do not result in a live birth. Fecundability varies from one couple to another. Out of 100 couples who decide to have a child, 90 obtain a pregnancy within 12 months. The 10 remaining unsuccessful couples have a lower mean fecundability, but most will nonetheless conceive within the following 12 months. So an inability to conceive within 12 months does not signify sterility, as is sometimes suggested. Fecundity may have declined among certain western populations, notably because of lower sperm quality. This should not reduce fertility, i.e. the actual number of children born, but may simply lengthen the waiting time to pregnancy.

Suggested Citation

  • Henri Leridon, 2010. "Human fecundity: situation and outlook," Population and Societies 471, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED).
  • Handle: RePEc:idg:posoce:471

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    Cited by:

    1. Arnaud Régnier-Loilier & Jean-Marc Rohrbasser, 2011. "Is there a childbearing season?," Population and Societies 474, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED).

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