Further education on fertility issues needed

Many over-estimate their ability to conceive

Deborah Condon

May 19, 2023

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  • People of childbearing age in Ireland have some basic knowledge when it comes to the issue of fertility, however there is still a need for further education in this area, a new study suggests.

    International studies have shown that fertility knowledge among the general population tends to be poor and there has been a shift towards delayed childbearing and age at first pregnancy. Many also over-estimate their ability to conceive.

    The consequences of this can include increased infertility, a dependency on assisted reproduction techniques and complex outcomes for mothers and babies.

    Researchers at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) set out to identify knowledge and attitudes towards fertility among the childbearing population in Ireland.

    The cross-sectional study involved 480 participants of childbearing age – 71% of whom were female and 29% male. All completed the Fertility Awareness Survey, which includes demographic questions as well as questions on fertility knowledge.

    Some 61% of the participants were married or in a relationship while 39% were single.

    The study found that 75% of participants believe that IVF has a 30-60% chance of resulting in a live birth. However, according to the HSE, only around 25% of IVF procedures are successful (resulting in pregnancy).

    Gender appeared to play a significant role in certain beliefs around fertility. For example, men were more likely to believe that a woman’s ability to become pregnant progressively decreases after the age of 35.

    Men were also more likely to report that a woman’s weight affects fertility

    Women however were more likely to believe that there would be a significant decline in sperm quality before the age of 50. Women were also more likely to believe that the total cost of one IVF cycle is under €6000.

    However, the study did suggest a good knowledge of lifestyle factors. For example, 95% of respondents believed that smoking and alcohol can impact the ability to conceive.

    “Although knowledge regarding lifestyle factors and fertility is strong, discrepancies in individuals’ perception of fertility, assisted reproductive techniques and its success remain,” the researchers noted.

    They concluded that while the results suggest that the general population has “some basic knowledge regarding fertility, there is broad scope for enhanced education, communication and decision making”.

    Identifying different trends between populations “could give insight into where education is needed”, they added.

    This study was published in the Irish Medical Journal.

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