This study highlights the fact that many women (and, in my opinion, many physicians) do not realize the real decrease in fertility potential that accompanies female aging. We all know someone who had a baby late in life and we tend to think that we all are blessed with fertility whenever we are ready for children or to add to our family.
Complicating matters are the stories of celebrities who have twins at age 50! From the perspective of education, I know that some of my patients will tell their families and physicians that they became pregnant with their eggs when in fact they used donor eggs. We all appreciate the individual right to privacy but sometimes others use these stories to downplay the realities of nature.
Please read my page on Reproductive Aging for more details. A few years ago the ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) featured reproductive aging in its advertising as an educational awareness campaign.
This article was presented at the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society 52nd annual meeting, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, November 15–18, 2006.
Karla L. Bretherick, Ph.D.ab , Nichole Fairbrother, Ph.D.bc, Luana Avila, B.Sc.ab, Sara H.A. Harbord, M.Sc.ab, Wendy P. Robinson, Ph.D.a
Received 13 August 2008; received in revised form 19 December 2008; accepted 7 January 2009. published online 17 March 2009.
Objective: Female fertility declines with age; however, women are increasingly delaying childbearing until later in their reproductive years. One of the factors that may contribute to this trend is a general lack of knowledge about the decline in fertility with age.
Design: Self-report survey. Questions pertained to participant demographics and childbearing intentions, and knowledge of the decline in fertility and increased risk of pregnancy loss with age.
Setting: The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Patients: Female undergraduate students (N = 360).
Main Outcome Measure(s): Knowledge of fertility over the life span, predictors of age of intended childbearing.
Result(s): Although most women were aware that fertility declines with age, they significantly overestimated the chance of pregnancy at all ages and were not conscious of the steep rate of fertility decline. Surprisingly, women overestimated the chance of pregnancy loss at all ages, but did not generally identify a woman’s age as the strongest risk factor for miscarriage.
Conclusion(s): Education regarding the rate at which reproductive capacity declines with age is necessary to avoid unintended childlessness among female academics and professionals.
Volume 93, Issue 7, Pages 2162-2168 (1 May 2010)
a Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
b Interdisciplinary Women’s Reproductive Health Research Training program, Child and Family Research Institute, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
c Women’s Health Research Institute, BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada