An increasing number of women are choosing to forego having children – but the decision not to have kids is still a taboo issue.

A recent study found couples who make the choice not to have children are seen to violate social norms and face judgement from others.

Women in particular face stigma if they decide not to procreate, so we asked five people to tell us why they made the choice not to have children – and the reaction they've faced as a consequence.

Anonymous, mid-30s

From the moment you're born as a girl, there is societal and family belief that you should procreate and somehow if you don't, you're either selfish, there's something wrong with you, or you "haven't met the right partner, yet".

I have never wanted children, ever. I just have never had the urge or remotely been swayed to procreate and while I have met and married my perfect partner and I am deeply in love, this has not changed.

I find, whether from strangers, family members, colleagues or the moral police from the internet, being a childless woman – out of choice – makes people consider you as selfish or they believe that you don't know your own mind and somehow some major event is going to change it.

I'm finding as well the older I get, there is a large group of mothers mainly who have had children consistently – whether consciously or not – that demean a childless woman's existence by saying that they have it harder, they need more time off, nothing is more important than motherhood, and, frankly, it's intolerable.

I actually find the most outrage comes from other women, not men. They don't understand that just because some of us don't have children all we do is go on holiday and live a carefree existence – which is fundamentally untrue.

I have a fulfilling life full of love and adventure and I adore my friends' children and nieces and nephews but having one of my own was never something I wanted. Being a mother is a choice, just as much as not being one is. There is more to life than procreation – the world is overpopulated anyway.

Disposable nappy
Having children isn't for everyone iStock

Charlotte Moore, 41, Hertfordshire

I've known since I was around 11 that I never wanted to have children. Nothing about this life choice has ever appealed to me and while I can see the joy they bring to people's lives, I've always thought that they're not the only choice when it comes to creating happiness. For me, accomplishing other things in life are just as valuable – a job you love, freedom to travel and enough disposable income to enjoy opportunities as they come along.

Whenever someone has asked me about having children – and they ask, I don't bring it up because I always get that incredulous and judgemental stare – I've been constantly told that "I'll change my mind as I get older" with a knowing smile and nod of the head. Most people just can't believe that I would choose not to have children at any stage of my life.

I've only ever met a small handful of people throughout my life who felt the same way as me, and we immediately bond over the fact that society doesn't understand our point of view and deems us to be selfish in our attitude.

When I met my boyfriend 12 years ago, I was totally upfront with him and have always offered him an out if he changes his mind and wants a family. Neither of us have ever had a change of heart, and instead, relish the freedom to enjoy opportunities in life that being childless gives us. We'd always prefer to eat in a restaurant without gaggles of screaming children.

We look at holidays that are aimed at adults only so that we can enjoy the surroundings in a truly relaxed environment. I love other people's children and am happy for them that they've made that choice, I just wish they afforded me the same courtesy without judgement.

Alessandra Gritt, 24, Leeds

Growing up, I'd always assumed I'd have kids because that was what was expected: leave school, get a job, get married, have kids. But as I've got older, the idea has grown less and less appealing and as I've realised that I don't have to follow that structure, I've become more aware that kids really aren't for me.

There are a few health issues (mental health in particular) that run in the family that I'm keen not to pass on or make my own offspring deal with. I'm aware that I sit in a hugely privileged position and yet I worry about my own future with everything going on in the world, so I don't want to think about bringing someone else into it.

At much simpler level, I'm really selfish. I wouldn't call myself irresponsible but I don't see myself as ever being competent enough to look after a tiny human and I like being able to be impulsive. I enjoy my time being my own; if my cat meowing to be fed at a certain time irks me, how would I deal with a kid that has much greater needs? I've got so much respect for parents, especially those who do it solo, because it's a huge level of work and dedication.

It's not that I don't like children – I really enjoy spending time with my friends' and family's kids, but I'm glad I don't have to take them home with me. I'm used to hearing "you'll change your mind" or "what does your boyfriend think about that?" especially from older family and friends. I'm lucky to have a partner who shares and is supportive of my views, but if he didn't and wasn't it wouldn't make me change mine.

Cafe argument
Married couples who decide not to have children face anger and disgust in social backlash. iStock

Anonymous, 35, Surrey

I've never been maternal, even as a child I never wanted to play with baby dolls. I was always more drawn to the teddy bears or Ewoks that my brothers played with. The actual idea of being pregnant also freaks me out quite a lot. As I've got older, I've also realised I like sleeping in, spending money on anything I want when I want it. Going on holiday on a whim. Kids just don't fit in with my lifestyle!

Throughout my 20s when I was in a long-term relationship I was constantly asked when am I having children. At this point in my life I was in two minds as to whether I wanted kids. I felt a great deal of peer pressure. Even now that I'm confident in my choice not to have children, I have people tell me I'll regret my choice and that I'll be lonely when I'm older. (I'm sure there are hundreds of old people in homes waiting for their kids to visit).

I have at times posted funny memes on Facebook about not having children (also as a comeback to the people who say I'll regret my choices) and this has been taken as "anti-child posts" by my friends who have children. I have even lost best friends over this. I can assure you, I don't hate children, never have done. I just don't want one.

All was meant by the comment is that it's an old system that needs updating. As in having a child is a personal choice, if you get paid leave for that choice, great! But if I want paid leave for my personal choice (say learning a language in another country) I get nothing. I just want fair treatment.

Chloe Hood, 35

My reasoning for not having children is pretty broad. It spans from me just downright thinking children are awful, my family history of health issues such as allergies and mental illness being passed down, to social and economic reasoning. There are already so many unwanted children in this world, why should I create more?

I was always the kid who never wanted to play with one of those dolls that cry and wet themselves and I have never been maternal. There was never a light bulb moment where I decided that children weren't for me, I have never wanted them for as long as I can remember.

I am quite lucky that my parents are happy with my decision to remain child-free and have never pushed me either way. I come from a relatively small family that doesn't really discuss things so the topic has never really come up with extended family. I don't tend to get judged often, maybe it's because my look is a bit extreme that people would think I would be a bad mother so they don't try and push me into it.

I have had on occasion had the odd person who would claim I shouldn't be so open to my child-free view as there are some people who want children but can't have them, like I should somehow just pop out a child to make that person feel better.

I feel I've been more stigmatised more than judged, for example, I have worked in jobs before where those who had children got first choice on holidays like I don't have my own family to go and see or my own out of work commitments to attend or they are less important because it's not child-related.