Time to teach the facts of fertility

The vast majority of young adults in the UK (87%) do not know female fertility is declining by a woman’s late twenties, reveals a new survey from leading patient fertility charity Infertility Network UK.

The survey of 16-25-year-old women and men shows the pressing need for fertility education, with three out of four young adults responding that they do not enough about how fertility declines with age or wanted more information about fertility. Less than one in five (18%) young adults were aware that fertility treatments, such as IVF and ICSI, have an average success rate of just 25%.

Susan Seenan, chief executive of Infertility Network UK said: ‘Fertility is our future. This survey, and results from our successful fertility education project in Scotland (funded by the Scottish Government), highlight very clearly that there is a need and a demand for fertility education among young adults. That is why it is so disappointing that, in England, the Government has yet again turned down Infertility Network UK’s request for funding to facilitate fertility education in England. ’

Ms Seenan added: ‘Being aware of the facts of fertility is so important. Our survey shows that 98% of young adults say they do want children, yet the harsh reality is that not all of them will be able to: 1 in 6 couples in the UK struggle to become parents. What is needed now is clear, concise fertility education for young people: on how age and lifestyle choices affect both female and male fertility, and on how to protect and maintain fertility. All young adults should be aware that female fertility is already declining by the time women are in their late twenties; everyone should know the five ages of female fertility.’

In Scotland, Infertility Network UK is in the third year of an education project funded by the Scottish Government to tackle the problem of a lack of awareness of issues surrounding fertility in the region and to prevent, where possible, the heartache of infertility for a future generation. The project ensures that people are informed on fertility issues: how precious their fertility is; the impact of lifestyle choices on their fertility; how to take care of their fertility and how and when it declines. Not all fertility problems are due to lifestyle issues, but creating a better understanding of how these issues may affect future fertility and giving young people the right information allows them to make an informed choice about decisions which affect their future fertility.

Results from Infertility Network Scotland’s 2015 survey of university and college students revealed that only 1 in 5 students are aware that lifestyle factors may affect their future fertility, while just 1% of females and 0.5% of males are aware that age affects fertility.  Similarly, only 3% of females and 0.5% of males are aware that sexually transmitted infections cause fertility problems. Following discussion with Infertility Network Scotland, 99.5% of students surveyed said they would now give more consideration to present and ongoing lifestyle choices that could affect their future fertility.

Do you know the five ages of female fertility?

14: most women have begun to ovulate once a month

21: female fertility is at or reaching its peak

28: female fertility is declining

35: female fertility drops steeply

42: the chances of being able to become a parent using your own eggs are vanishingly small.