Maxine Peake says she is considering adoption after years of trying to conceive.
In an interview with The Times, the Shameless, Silk and The Village star said she had explored 'every avenue' – including IVF – and also suffered two miscarriages.
But she said her desire to keep trying for a family was entirely 'selfish'.
Maxine, 40, told how an actor friend had told her he was too selfish to have children.
It prompted her to reply: "No, you're wrong. Having children is very selfish. There is a vanity and selfishness in some respects in believing you must continue your genes and bloodline."
Maxine, who is starring as Hamlet in Manchester, said watching her long-term boyfriend, television art director Pawlo Wintoniuk, 43, care for both his parents before they died had also made her wonder whether it would be less selfish not to have children.
She added: "It made me think I wouldn't want to have my kids looking after me like that."
Speaking about her struggle to conceive, she said: "Paw loves kids and we've had a go. But it hasn't worked.
"That is the case for many people. It is maddening, really, that women have these biological clocks, that just when they are getting used to one stage, they must go on to the next.
"I am so much more creative and brave than when I was a teenager. In my forties I have this fearlessness to keep exploring. I don't mind rolling around on the floor any more, looking a fool."
Maxine said several female friends had thanked her for speaking out about her infertility, saying the problem was often viewed as something shameful.
She said: "I find that horrifying. But they felt failures as women just because certain bits of their bodies didn't work."
She and Pawlo are now exploring adoption.
She said: "It might involve rethinking things, because I'm away so much.
"But being so close to my step-grandad, I know that relationships with people unrelated by blood can be very strong."