Fertility and Fecundity in Demography

Fertility and Fecundity in Demography

Fertility and Fecundity

Fertility refers to the reproductive function. It is the ability to bear offspring. It is the production of live birth which starts when a woman gives the first birth. Its period is generally 15-49 years of age. Likewise, fecundity is the psychological capacity to participate in reproduction. It starts with the regulation of monthly menstrual cycle. Fertility results in birth. It is measured by the actual number of births.

Fertility is the natural capability to produce offspring. As a measure, fertility rate is the number of offspring born per mating pair, individual or population. Fertility differs from fecundity, which is defined as the potential for reproduction (influenced by gamete production, fertilization and carrying a pregnancy to term). A lack of fertility is infertility while a lack of fecundity would be called sterility. Human fertility depends on factors of nutritionsexual behaviorconsanguinityculture, instinctendocrinology, timing, economics, way of life, and emotions

These two terms both deal with reproduction of species (most often mammals), but their difference is not so much physiological as semantic. That is, “fertility” deals with the ability to reproduce, while “fecundity” refers to frequency, willingness, and healthiness of a female to undergo the fertilization numerous times.

Fertility and fecundity are two concepts that are very closely related, and have gained currency in modern times because of the problems of infertility, and also to devise ways to control the populations of various species that have the potential to lead to ecological imbalance. Both fecundity and fertility pertain to ability to produce offspring and this is why many people remain confused with their differences. This article will highlight the features of both fecundity and fertility to make these differences clear.

If we think of 25 year old females in a population, barring a few who are incapable of producing offspring, 95% are physiologically capable of giving birth to babies. But, only about 10% may actually give birth to a baby in a year. Both, who are capable of producing offspring and those who actually produce offspring are technically fertile which is why it becomes difficult to differentiate between the concepts of fertility and fecundity. There are differing views of demographers and biologists on these two terms that compound the misery of common people. Demographers say that fecundity is the ability to have babies and fertility is the rate at which women actually have babies. On the other hand, biologists say that capacity to produce offspring is fertility while fecundity is actual realization.

Fertility is the natural capacity to reproduce and fertility rate is defined as the offspring per couple. It is to be differentiated from fecundity which is described by scientists and doctors as the potential to reproduce which is dependent upon many other factors such as fertilization of eggs by sperms and the ability to successfully carry the term of pregnancy. So fecundity is reproductive capacity of a single person or a population. In human beings, fecundity is often intentionally limited because of the necessity to have a small family so as to be better able to provide good means of living to all family members. On the other hand, there is no restriction of other organisms to reproduce. Fecundity is taken as a measure of fitness and is influenced by genetic factors and environmental factors.

Population ecology is one field of ecology where the concept of fecundity is very common. It has been proved by researchers that economic hardships such as lack of employment and food etc. have a negative effect on fecundity and it has been shown to decrease. A lack of fecundity is reflected in sterility.

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