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My Biological Clock Is Ticking

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Sometimes, it's about desperation or uncertainty.

"Cut the crap, Hamlet! My biological clock is ticking, and I want babies now!"

A typical plot in a Dom Com, when a middle-aged woman realizes that menopause is right around the corner and she doesn't have much time left to have children if she hasn't already, or if she wants more. Given the Law of Inverse Fertility, the harder she tries to become pregnant before The Change, the less likely she will be to actually get pregnant, but the moment she accepts that it won't happen, she will suddenly find herself with child.

Common plots involve a woman looking into sperm donation or adoption, or if she is approaching Old Maid status, attempting to get married before her 'expiration date.' As in Real Life, the latter is not a good idea and sometimes ends disastrously. She may end up using a Chosen Conception Partner in someone she trusts to have a child.

And Heaven help the poor thing if she also has parents who are screaming "I Want Grandkids!"

This trope is so widely-recognized across cultures that some languages have a word for it. In German, the word is Torschlusspanik — literally "last minute panic." Technically it can refer to any kind of impending deadline, but it's most commonly used for women's ticking biological clocks.

An Older Than Feudalism variant is the woman who wishes for a child and proceeds to have a Wonder Child. See also Mandatory Motherhood. See also Absurdly Elderly Mother if an older woman conceives a child long after her change should have already occurred.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Despite being a teenager, Kokoro from DARLING in the FRANXX is hit by this trope after finding a book on pregnancy and childbirth inside some ruins. She grows increasingly fascinated by the idea of having a child of her own, to the point of nearly forcing herself on her new partner Mitsuru to accomplish that. A significant part of her motivation is her awareness of the fact that, as a Parasite, she's unlikely to live much longer, and she wants to leave behind some sort of legacy.
  • Mr. Right Turned Out to Be a Younger Woman!? stars Haruki Shiina, a 33-year-old woman who is desperate to find a boyfriend and get married, in part because she is running out of time to have children.
  • An entire story arc of Rosario + Vampire focuses on Mizore's problems because of this. Specifically, her race can only reproduce through her mid-twenties, and was nearly forced into an arranged marriage to preserve her race. Break the Cutie ensues. But she gets better.
  • In The World of Moral Reversal, one of the girls argues that this is why female perversions aren't viewed as harshly in their world: better to encourage sex now so they can have babies later before it's too late.

    Comic Books 
  • Parodied in the Futurama comic "A Whole Lotta Leela" in which Leela is eager to get back to dating because she wants to start a family before it's too late. Apparently in the future, women have a literal biological clock that stops ticking when they're no longer fertile. After a mishap causes her to care for her infant, teenage, and elderly selves, Leela throws the clock out because she'd rather be happy being herself in the present than worry about her future.
  • In the DC Comics Crisis Crossover Joker's Last Laugh, Joker is tricked into believing that he's dying and tries to get Harley pregnant without marrying her. When she figures that out, she is... not happy. (Lots of KA-BOOMs.)

    Film — Animated 
  • In a very not funny example, Harley Quinn and the Joker jokingly reference this in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker in a flashback, only to then laugh at the concept of "the joy of childbirth". The result is an attack against Batman that involves a Mind Rape against Tim Drake that turns him into a mini-Joker and leaves him mentally scarred for life. At the very end of the movie it's also revealed that Harley has two granddaughters named Delia and Deidre Dennis, meaning that at some point she did actually have at least one kid. It is unknown whether the "Dee Dees" are descended from the Joker as well.
  • Gender-Inverted in Puss in Boots by Jack and Jill. Throughout the film, Jack suggests to Jill that they settle down and raise a child together, to the point of practicing being a father with his favorite piglet Hamhock. Jill, however, is completely against the idea and prefers the criminal life instead.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Gender Inverted in 24-Hour Party People when Tony Wilson expresses great desire to be a father while talking with his first wife.
    Tony Wilson: Two words: Body Clock.
  • Aladdin (2019) has Princess Jasmine's handmaiden Dalia expounding at length near the end of the movie, about the life she imagines with the freshly emancipated Genie she had developed a mutual infatuation with, starting with "When do we leave also I want children". She's depicted to be a bit older than her charge. The framing device for the story as depicted in the prologue shows that she got her kids.
  • Clock: Ella's friends and family treat her like a freak for not wanting kids. She tells her OB/GYN she doesn't feel ready to have children and Dr. Webber reminds her that at 37, she is almost "geriatric". Ella eventually participates in a clinical trial intended to "fix" her biological clock.
  • Desperados (2020): Wesley is very distressed about being in her 30s and still being unmarried and childless, especially since all her friends are getting hitched and starting families of their own.
  • Fatal Attraction: Alex refuses to abort Dan's baby, citing the fact that she already had fertility issues—she assumed that she couldn't get pregnant following a traumatic miscarriage, and her age—36—that it could be the last chance she has to have a baby.
  • Invoked by Molly's doctor in Look Who's Talking after she gets pregnant with Mikey. That night, she has a dream that turns it into a Literal Metaphor, with her hanging from the minute hand of a clock tower.
  • Miss Conception is a rom-com about this very anxiety. The lead character believes she's down to one egg, and tries to get sperm on it by any means necessary.
  • Gender inverted in Mrs. Doubtfire by Stu. When he takes his girlfriend, Miranda, and her children to a pool, one of his friends notes that Stu wouldn't have even dated a woman who had kids. Stu replies that things have changed and that he's pushing 40.
  • This is part of one of Lisa's monologues in My Cousin Vinny, with a beautiful counter from Vinny.

  • In The Alice Network, Cameron mentions how much his wife wanted children and how the disappointment each month made her act strangely.
  • In A Brother's Price Eldest Whistler is twenty eight and has time left before menopause, plus her younger sisters have more, but she'd still like to marry and have one child, to see what pregnancy is like for herself. A teacher, Miss Skinner, feels this trope far more strongly, to the point of desperation; another character sighs and calls her addled, saying she should have gone to the cribs long ago. It's noted that not all women get this kind of feeling. Said other character can't stand children.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, Trillian gets the urge for a kid some time between So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and Mostly Harmless thanks to the Guide Mark 2's influence, and so uses sperm donated that Arthur had previously donated to a lab in exchange for money, and then the kid winds up with Arthur since she left the baby at a day-care center and when she came back to pick her up she was a teenager because of the Timey-Wimey Ball.
  • InCryptid: In the prequels, Gwendolyn Brandt desperately wants to have a child with her betrothed Thomas Price (who wants nothing to do with her), though it seems to be less for the sake of love or having a child than for 1) Giving birth to a new member of the Covenant and 2) Gaining control of the Price family bank accounts for the Covenant.
  • This is a plot point in The Priory of the Orange Tree. Inys is ruled by queens of the House of Berethnet, descendants of Saint Galian. The queen always has one daughter, and it's believed that this is due to their holy origins. The current queen, Sabran, is twenty-eight, unmarried, and childless, and both her advisers and her subjects are getting pretty antsy about it. Sabran understands her duty, but she has a dread of dying in childbed to the point that she tried to commission an elixir of life from an alchemist at one point. She does marry and get pregnant, but her husband is murdered and then a dragon attack injures her so that she loses the pregnancy and she can't conceive again. After a number of major revelations and the matter of the Nameless One are settled, Sabran decides to turn the Queendom into a republic.
  • Warrior Cats: In Squirrelflight's Hope, Squirrelflight worries about her age. She wants to have another litter while she still can, but her mate Bramblestar disagrees.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Liz on 30 Rock in "The Baby Show". Tina Fey later made a whole movie about it called Baby Mama.
    • Liz, basically constantly, complete with her mom who wants grandkids. She goes through several boyfriends, considers adoption and sperm donation, buys a wedding dress while single....yeah. Two of those things happened in Season 1. (She finds a worthwhile boyfriend in Season 6.)
    • Even Jack isn't immune, with his mother pressuring him to get married (again) and have children (and then criticizing every woman he dates). He actually marries Avery Jessup in Season 4, and has a daughter in Season 5...only to spend all of Season 6 with Avery arrested in North Korea, leading to their divorce upon her return.
  • On Adam Ruins Everything, Adam (and an actual researcher on the subject, who herself had all of her children relatively late in life) explain that the reason we're always told that a woman's fertility drops after 35, is that most of the existing data on the topic comes from 16th-century French farmers. More modern data suggests that the decline happens in a woman's mid to late 40's, not 30's. Also, the risk of birth defects doubles after 35 — from 0.5% to 1%. His further interview with the researcher expands that it's often a trade-off: women, who have children later in life, tend to be more advanced in their careers and more financially secure; at the same time, they're not as energetic as they were ten years ago, so it may be a little difficult keeping up with kids. It's just something every women has to decide for herself.
  • Angel: Illyria is revealed in the Angel comic series to have a once-in-a-millennium mating cycle, signaled by Illyria going "into heat".
  • One contestant on Travis Stork's season of The Bachelor told him at the first-night party that she was there because "My eggs are rotting." He didn't keep her past that night.
  • Another rare male example in The Bold Type. Richard wants to have a family, which becomes a discussion point in his and Sutton's relationship due to the age gap (he's 41 and she's in her late 20s) as Richard doesn't want to wait till he's in his fifties to have children. When they get married they agree to freeze his sperm and have a five-year pause on pursuing parenthood. So after an unplanned pregnancy and miscarriage makes Sutton realize she doesn't want children at all, he's not too happy.
    • When Jane finds out she has the BRCA1 gene that increases her risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer, taking preventative measures means she also has to consider fertility options and motherhood in her mid-20s.
  • An absolutely mindfucking example comes from Ally McBeal. When titular protagonist Ally undergoes this experience, it takes the form of hallucinations that end up coming and going without any given prompting, often seeming like a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment.
  • Dr. Brennan in Bones had no interest in parenthood during the first few seasons, until towards the end of Season Four, when she decided she wanted to be a mother, and asked Booth to volunteer as a sperm donor. This plotline was interrupted by Booth's brain tumor, and made academic by the end of Season Six, when Booth and Bones conceived a child the old-fashioned way. By the end of the show, they have two kids.
  • The titular Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman seems to fear this as well, when she realizes that she still isn't pregnant after several months of her and Sully being Insatiable Newlyweds.
  • Joan Watson from Elementary never thought much about having children because she had so much going on in her life and she wasn't with anyone. However, after reading confidential material from an old therapist mentioning that she'd make a "good mother" Joan begins rethinking this. She begins looking into adoption but circumstances delay the process for a while. After a Time Skip in the Grand Finale she's adopted a son named Arthur.
  • Wash and Zoe argue about it in Firefly in "Heart of Gold". Zoe wants to have kids but Wash is scared because they lead a dangerous life. Strangely one of the comics flip flops things without explanation and has Zoe be the opposed one. Eventually, Zoe did get pregnant just before Wash died in the movie and it turned into Someone to Remember Him By, with their daughter becoming a character in the sequel comics.
  • Friends had this several times.
    • Monica was babycrazy practically from the start, and especially from the first season finale, and it led to the end of her relationship with Richard (played by Tom Selleck) since he didn't want kids. Later seasons saw her and Chandler adopt after they had trouble conceiving, though ironically Courtney Cox really was pregnant when the adoption episodes were filmed.
    • Phoebe didn't seem to have these feelings until she served as a surrogate for her brother (a plot necessitated by the actress' real life pregnancy), at which point she started wishing for her own family.
    • Rachel's feelings on the subject seemed to be limited to "be married and have a baby before I turn thirty-five", which she did get, in a roundabout way.
  • Gilmore Girls: Lorelai had Rory when she was 16 and never expressed any interest in having more children. Meanwhile, Luke never wanted kids in the first place, which is what led his ex-girlfriend to hide the fact that she'd given birth to his daughter. But in the revival, A Year in the Life, Lorelai asks Luke if he wanted them to have a child together, and he admits that he had, years ago, but thought she'd turned him down. Cut to Luke and Lorelai trying to hire a surrogate because at her age, it's the only option. Luke quickly gets weirded out by the whole idea, and they decide not to have another child.
  • Also a sideplot on Grey's Anatomy back when Addison Montgomery-Sheppard was still in Seattle.
  • House had a sideplot involving Cuddy trying to get pregnant via sperm donors and fertility treatments. The title character handles this with his usual variance of sensitivity, ranging from agreeing to inject her in the backside with a hormone treatment to actually using her infertility as a vulnerable point to lash out at her. In the end, she adopts.
  • Despite being a middle-aged man with a grown daughter, Jane the Virgin's Rogelio manages to be a Rare Male Example. He wants the experience of raising a child since he missed out on raising Jane, and starts visiting a matchmaker in the hopes of finding a babymama before he gets too old to be a good dad. Subverted when he realizes that his baby grandson can fill this void for him; double-subverted when the matchmaker, Darci, gets pregnant by him.
  • In the "Inconceivable" episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit involving a stolen cryotank of embryos Olivia comes face to face with her own anxiety about having children and reveals that she had been turned down by adoption agencies for not having an extended family network. Her partner Elliot offered to help her in whatever way he could... whatever that means.
    • Also invoked in "Babes" a deliberately pregnant teen (the result of a pregnancy pact with friends) taunted middle-aged, childless Olivia, convinced that her disapproval of the girl's choices was only jealousy. She rubbed her swollen belly and chanted mockingly in Olivia's face, "Tick-tock. Tick-tock." Olivia retaliated by rattling off the things that are much more likely to happen to babies with teenage mothers.
  • Though it wasn't necessarily due to age, one of the lesbian couples on The L Word decided they wanted a child in this sort of plot.
  • Actually happens to a man in the backstory of Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, in which Adventurer Archaeologist Andrew Hartford decides his clock is ticking, and so he builds himself a Ridiculously Human Robot teenage son (Mack, who, incidentally, becomes the team's Red Ranger). Being a childrens' show, why he doesn't use his ungodly amounts of money to get a gold-digger wife is never explored, but it at least gets a lampshade:
    Andrew: I was too busy with my work to find the right woman.
    Mack: Why didn't you make one of those, too!?
  • Roseanne: Played for Drama in the 2018 revival. Becky's husband Mark passed away before they were ready to have children, and she never had a serious relationship since. Now in her 40's, her clock is ticking and she's also rejected for surrogacy for being too old. She ultimately becomes pregnant from a one-night stand, in spite of the low odds.
  • On Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Aunt Hilda once had a problem with her biological clock (a literal magical clock) and began a series of desperate measures to try and become pregnant, including randomly choosing a guy off the street to marry. Sabrina eventually offered her own clock as a substitute for Hilda's, but luckily it all worked out in a timely fashion.
  • Dr. Elliott Reid of Scrubs started to feel this way in later seasons.
  • Sex and the City. Carrie has a moment like this when her latest boyfriend mentions that he doesn't want any more kids (he has a daughter from his first marriage). She says she's too young to be having this conversation, and too old not to be—38.
  • From Spin City, Carrie is so desperate to have a baby that she ends up stealing Mike's sperm.
  • Parodied on Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Betazoid women in middle-age experience "The Phase", which is more a case of My Biological Clock Has Gone To Red Alert, with their sex drive quadrupling (or more) as a result!
    • Followed up in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, when Lwaxana Troi is diagnosed with Zanthi fever, which makes almost everybody at the station as hormonal as she is.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. In "The Q and the Grey", Q turns up to ask Captain Janeway to be the mother of his child, claiming "My cosmic clock is ticking!" (given that Q is immortal, Janeway is justifiably skeptical as to this explanation). He points out that Janeway also isn't getting any younger, and is stranded on the far side of the galaxy from her fiance.
  • On Strong Medicine, Dr. Dana Stowe isn't bothered too much by still being single in her mid-to-late thirties, but she is bothered by still being childless—especially since as an OB/GYN and fertility specialist, she knows full well the risks and difficulties of conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy at an older age.
  • Subverted in one episode of Warehouse 13. Myka has just found out that her younger sister is pregnant, and everyone expects her to be upset since she hasn't had any children yet. Then, while tracking down a wish-fulfilling artifact, Myka suddenly becomes very pregnant. However, it turns out that it was Pete's wish that caused the pregnancy, because he's the one who really wants to have kids.
  • Patricia Dawkins from The Thin Blue Line. She is anxious to have children. Unfortunately, her partner is less interested in obliging, partly as he already has a teenage son with his ex-wife, and partly because he is overly devoted to his job as a policeman.
  • In an episode of Tracker (2001), Jess is on the fence about returning to London to be with her old boyfriend. She tells Mel about her ticking clock. Mel, who is noticeably older than Jess, wryly tells her that her clock hasn't even started yet.
  • Without a Trace. Jack's girlfriend Ann tells him she's pregnant and makes it clear that she will not have an abortion (he already has two daughters and isn't keen on having anymore children) for this very reason. She eventually has a Convenient Miscarriage, making the debate moot.
  • 7 Yüz: The episode "Biyologik Saat" (Biological Clock) gender-flips the trope. As its title indicates, the story takes place in an alternate universe where men's fertility diminishes drastically after a certain point, as it does for women in reality. Upon realizing his time is running out to start a family, the protagonist Metin hastily begins seeking a serious partner he can settle down and grow old with.
  • You Me Her: Jack and Emma feel pressured to have a child as she's nearing 40. They end up having twin girls.

  • Jenny Lewis' "Just One of the Guys" describes the difficulty of being a childless woman trying to blend in with the men around her. (Yes, this is the one with the video featuring Anne Hathaway, Kristen Stewart, and Brie Larson in drag.) It was literally described by a reviewer for The Atlantic as "an ode to [the] biological clock."
    There's only one difference between you and me
    When I look at myself, all I can see:
    I'm just another lady without a baby



    Western Animation 
  • Shari in American Dad! seems to have this; she was quite desperate to get married and yells at her husband Buckle to "Put a baby in me!"
  • Animaniacs: In the song "I'm Nobody's Mama" from the Rita & Runt cartoon "Smitten with Kittens," Rita cites this trope to explain away her reluctant motherly instincts toward the stray kittens who have imprinted on her. A prime example Artistic License – Biology, since cats don't go through menopause.
  • This is Princess Carolyn's arc in Season 4 of BoJack Horseman, as she and her mouse boyfriend, Ralph, decide to have a baby after she'd suffered a miscarriage with an unplanned pregnancy. Sadly, she miscarries again, bringing her lifetime total miscarriages up to five, and prompting a breakup with Ralph when he suggests they explore other options. Ironically, she does eventually explore other options and adopts a hedgehog that she names Ruthie.
  • In the series finale of Daria, after Mrs. Barch somewhat cornered Mr. O'Neil into proposing to her, she was very vocal about having a short engagement and less than subtle about the reasons why.
    Mrs. Barch: We need to get cracking before my eggs dry out.
  • Drawn Together had Toot try to get pregnant before she was convinced to try adopting a Nicaraguan baby as a test, which was of course handled with all the good taste the show is (not) known for.
  • In the Duckman episode "Sperms of Endearment", the titular character's hated sister-in-law decides to have a child before it's too late, and turns to almost any man in order to get pregnant. Eventually her desperation gets so bad she turns to a sperm bank for an artificial insemination. Unfortunately, she gets inseminated with Duckman's sperm... Or so it seems. Thanks to their mutual hatred of each other, the insemination doesn't take as their sperm and egg would rather kill each other than make a baby.
  • An episode of Family Guy showed a 37-year old woman, desperate to get pregnant, on a date with an ex-convict.
  • Sealab 2021: "Chickmate" revolves around Debbie's clock going off. She wakes up screaming "I want a baby!", briefly treats a dolphin like her baby, then starts interviewing all of the males on Sealab to find a suitable father. She eventually gets turned off by the idea by coming to the conclusion that the guys are childish enough.
  • This is running theme for Marge's sister Selma in The Simpsons, who at various points had considered sperm donation, dated several men, had been married several times and took on an iguana as a substitute. She eventually adopted a baby girl named Ling from China. Interestingly, she actually makes the decision to adopt when she learns she's reached menopause.

    Real Life 
  • This trope is normally brought up in relation to women—not only due to menopause but also because, stereotypically, Not Wanting Kids Is Weird for women—but arguably it shouldn't be. While men never entirely lose the ability to sire offspring, sperm production and viability does decline with age.