Up Against the Clock

Up against the clock: What women don’t know about age-related fertility decline

The results of a study recently published in the journal, Human Reproduction, suggests that some women may not be adequately informed about age-related fertility decline.

Over the course of two years (i.e, between 2009 and 2011), researchers at the University of California, San Francisco interviewed 61 women living in diverse families who underwent in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments after the age of 40. All of these women eventually conceived and delivered a child via IVF. Almost half of these women were shocked to find out that they needed fertility treatments. In addition, most women were unaware of the realities of age-related fertility decline. For example, many women expected to become pregnant easily after the age of 40. In reality, a woman’s fertility begins to decline in her late 20’s, with rapid declines occurring in her mid-30’s. Very few participants thought that they would need to resort to fertility treatments such as IVF, and were upset by the fact that they were misinformed about their fertility. However, when asked if – knowing what they know now – they would have tried to start their families earlier, only a quarter of these women said “yes”.

Twenty-eight percent of the women reported that their information about their fertility came primarily from their friends and doctors, and felt that media promoted the notion that older women can get pregnant easily. In reality, many of the celebrity’s having babies in their 40 are using the donated eggs of younger women. A quarter of women felt their beliefs stemmed from information received as adolescents about preventing pregnancy. These women tried to prevent themselves from getting pregnant for most of their lives, only to discover it is more difficult to become pregnant than they realized. Another quarter of participants reported that their fertility beliefs stemmed from the fertility experiences of their mothers and sisters, as well as their own fertility history.

These findings are similar to the results of a study conducted by our site creators Dr. Judith Daniluk and Emily Koert. In this study, 3345 childless women between the ages of 20 and 50 – women who presumed they were fertile – completed the Fertility Awareness Survey (FAS) online. Dr. Daniluk and her colleagues found that although the majority of the women believed that they had a pretty good grasp on fertility-related knowledge, they actually knew far less about fertility than they thought. The same was true for 599 men who completed the Fertility Awareness Survey for Men (FAS-M). This website – myfertilitychoices.com – was developed in response to the findings of this study, which suggested that many women and men aren’t adequately informed about their fertility, and as a consequence, may have find themselves having to seek medical assistance in their efforts to create their families or may end up childless by default.

To read more about the study conducted by Dr. Daniluk and colleagues, click here. To read the study abstract, click here.

For more information about the California study, click here:

Fertility decline surprises women over 40, study finds [The Huffington Post]

To read the abstract for this study, click here.

For more information about age-related fertility decline among women, click here and here.


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