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Fecundity and Fertility


Literally, "fecundity" means the ability to produce live offspring, and "fertility" means the actual production of live offspring. So fecundity refers to the potential production, and fertility to actual production, of live offspring. Fecundity cannot be measured, but it can be assessed clinically. Fertility and its impairments and aberrations are recorded for individuals in their medical charts and are measured in the population by routinely collected vital statistics about reproductive outcomes such as births, stillbirths, miscarriages, and so on. Fecundity and fertility are often confused. The confusion is further confounded by the fact that in French the meanings of the two similar-sounding words are reversed: fécondité means "fertility," and fertilité means "fecundity." Communication among demographers and others about these demographic details therefore requires care and awareness of this fact.

John M. Last

(see also: Pregnancy; Reproduction )

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