Why We Need To Be Better at Balancing Fertility Education and Infertility “Fear”
There is much information out in the world about everything women supposedly need to be anxious about regarding their fertility vs. educational and authoritatively sourced information about menstruation, ovulation, family planning, reproductive disorders, male factor fertility, etc. What we tend to hear about, more often than anything else, is how important a woman’s age is and that after a certain point in her life, fertility, pregnancy, and delivery all become significantly complicated.
While age is certainly part of the conversation about female fertility, it is only one part of the full picture. Conversations about fertility need to be helpful, not a source of fear and anxiety. Fertility education, in an ideal world, would start early alongside comprehensive sex education. However, until this happens, it is up to all of us to improve how we balance fertility education with the sense of urgency placed upon female partners close to or older than age 35.
How does infertility “fear” work?
One of the most prominent examples of using fear as a form of so-called fertility education is when discussing how a woman’s age impacts her fertility. While it is true that a woman’s ovarian reserve, that is the quantity and quality of her eggs, diminishes over time and this rate increases around age 35, it is by no means the final deadline our culture makes it out to be. When fertility doctors and gynecologists, even GPs, talk about age and female fertility, it should be from the perspective of educated awareness. Women need to be informed about all of their options when it comes to family planning if having a child is something they desire in the future.
Infertility fear seizes on this one area of reproductive health instead of allowing for the reality of conception which is that it involves many aspects of our health and that of our partner’s health as well. It pushes women to panic, especially if they are not in a place in their lives where they are comfortable and able to try to conceive. It also puts forth that narrative that there is only one reason why a couple wouldn’t be able to grow their family, meaning that the male partner’s fertility could be long disregarded before anyone thinks to start screenings.
How can we improve fertility education?
As noted above, in an ideal situation, fertility education would begin in school alongside menstrual and sex education. Teenagers who do not understand ovulation, ovarian reserve, male infertility, and more grow up to be adults who might still not have a basic verified understanding of these topics. Fertility doctors and gynecologists are often the first people in many patient’s lives to clearly lay out how those topics can be a factor in difficulty conceiving. If more people were better educated, those in need of treatment would know that there was an issue sooner and seek care in an optimal time frame vs. waiting for years to pass before considering reaching out for help.