A couple of reports have come out recently indicating that young women in particular too often don’t have a full or accurate picture of their fertility – which could affect their decisions and ability to have children later. The drugmaker EMD Serono published the results of its “In the Know: Fertility IQ 2011 survey,” which looked at fertility knowledge among US women aged 25-35. Some of the findings of the survey of 1,000 women:
- Only 31% of survey respondents said that increasing age is the single strongest risk factor for infertility (it is).
- The areas of lowest fertility knowledge were identifying the lengths of time it can take to become pregnant, and the likelihood of becoming pregnant across different age groups (14% and 8% answered correctly respectively).
In a study of 328 female university students in the November 2011 issue of the journal Fertility and Sterility, researchers asked the students, among other topics, how interested they were in learning about how fertile they are (their ovarian reserve). Seventy-nine percent said they would want to learn about medical technologies to gauge their current ovarian reserve; nearly half said they agreed that egg supply is something they “need to know about.”
Some survey questions touched on how the women would feel if, hypothetically, they learned that their fertility was in some way impaired – would they alter their education or work plans in that case? Only 29 percent said they would consider doing so immediately. Sixty-two percent said they would take no action with work or education if they got worrisome results about their ability to conceive, but two-thirds thought they would “settle down” earlier. Most important, the researchers said, was that 80 percent of the women said they would consider having children earlier if they got a result revealing they had low ovarian reserve.
The survey also included a quiz to see how much the women knew about reproductive health. The students largely knew that a woman is born with all the eggs she’ll ever have and that a woman can freeze her eggs before having cancer treatment, as well as that egg supply is dramatically variable among women. Most, though, weren’t clear at what age a women’s ability to have children declines (30 to 34), and many believed that exercise and diet can help to preserve a woman’s egg supply (they can’t).
In short, there seems to be considerable confusion when it comes to when a woman is fertile, for how long, what can hurt her ability to conceive, and how infertility can be treated. And these studies and surveys didn’t even touch on issues with male fertility…
Do you wish someone had told you the facts about fertility sooner? Do you think fertility awareness should be taught in school, alongside sex education or in some other context? Do you try to educate others about fertility, to clear up misconceptions?