Can living with your mother or mother-in-law affect fertility?

Yes, says a recent study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science. It suggests that living with a mother or mother-in-law may reduce the number of children the woman has.

The researchers examined the medical records of over 2.5 million women of reproductive age (15 to 34) from 14 countries across the globe. They examined many variables, including the number of children the women had given birth to, the woman’s age, an estimation of the woman’s reproductive period and whether their mother or mother-in-law was present in the household during the woman’s reproductive period.

They found that the overwhelming majority mothers did not live with either their mother or the mother of their husband. But the women who do live with their mothers or mothers-in-law are much more likely to have fewer children, on average, than women who live with their spouse only. “In addition,” the scientists found, “in most countries, a woman’s number of children is lower if she lives with her own mother as compared to her husband’s mother in the household.”

Although the study only found a correlation and cannot explain causality, the researchers said some possible reasons could be competition for resources and socioeconomic conditions.

“For instance,” they write, “women living with any mother in the household might face a difficult and complicated stage of life (e.g., poor health, unemployment, etc.),” which prevents them from having more children.

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