Fertility Education

by | 21 Jun 2015

About a year ago, I became a columnist for Fertility Road, one of the world’s leading fertility magazines. It’s fun writing about stuff that interests me – a bit like writing a blog except, even better, you get paid!

For the next issue’s column, I’ve written about fertility education. It’s been a hot topic this month following the leak that top Fertility Consultant, Professor Geeta Nargund (who by the way was one of mine and features in my book) has written to the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, urging her to put fertility education on the curriculum. Nargund is concerned at the growing number of people who are coming to her with problems at an age when their natural fertility is starting to decline and feels that we’re not educating young women that it’s best to start trying for a baby before you’re 30.

As I’ve had a lot of water in my ears lately I was deaf to the furore until my friend and fertility colleague Dee Armstrong alerted me. She wrote a brilliant piece for Huffington Post in which she argued that fertility education in schools is a no-brainer. I agree one hundred percent. But I confess I also enjoyed reading the piece by Harriet Minter in the Guardian which accused Professor Nargund of scaremongering.

The thing is everyone has a point here. It’s true that your fertility declines as you get older. And declining fertility makes making babies harder. But it’s equally true that many women do get pregnant in their thirties and forties and, in fact, the average age of first time motherhood is increasing.

Ultimately I think you’ve got to know the facts, and make your choice. But where I am confused is whether infertility or sub-fertility is actually increasing and if it is then why. There are certainly more IVF babies being born but is it due to declining fertility or are people just going for help earlier because it’s there? Nowadays IVF babies are two a penny (well hardly a penny, more like several thousand pounds). A friend of mine who has just had twins says she gets stopped constantly and the first question everyone asks is: ‘Are they IVF’?

So what I think we also need is more education on whether the growth of the fertility industry is a result of our health and age or simply capitalism at work. And isn’t it funny that one of the most important capitalists since IVF was invented had twins (you know, that iron lady who wasn’t for turning). When Carol and Mark were babies no one asked that question then!




    Well thank you for the link, Jessica. Harriet’s piece is also v good – she’s right, we don’t need more scaremongering and I don’t think that’s what Nargund was trying to do. Flipping newspapers winding us all up! We need a statistician to go through that Atlantic piece and give an objective view. The point you make about whether or not infertility is actually increasing is actually A Very Important Point amidst all this other noise. We don’t know the answer to that and I’m not aware of any good research on it. It’s so hard to study. One of those yonks long Scandi studies of conscripts’ sperm or the like only gives us half the story!

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      Hi Dee – you’re welcome, your article is fab. I’m also a fan of Nargund and agree she wasn’t really trying to scaremonger (well maybe she was a wee bit).

  2. kiftsgate

    I think you make a lot of good points. I find that more and more couples want to go straight to IVF and soon after starting TTC even when there is no explanation for their infertility (does it even classify as infertility if you’ve been trying for 6 months??). I think we also need to think about the psychological pressure on women of advising to have babies under 30. Is it good to create a generation of women who worry about having a career (because that’s also a must), find a man and have a baby by the time they are 30? We know stress doesn’t help fertility..
    I agree with you that giving information is important. And for me that also includes stuff like checking on your fertility early on and having clear medical information if there are issues (like in my case I got to know about difficulties with conceiving with PCOS very late). Information on other things such as dieting and infertility is important: why did I get informed on the effects of sugars on PCOS only after 3 IVF cycles and not when I was much younger..?
    Finally, I think public policy should worry about doing what they can to prevent fertility issues, e.g. reduce pollution.
    Sorry that’s a long comment…

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      Thank you for such a long comment, especially as I know you have your typing hands full at the moment with a very precious arrival! I much prefer the term sub-fertility to infertility because so many of us that are diagnosed are not actually truly ‘infertile’ and I also agree that many people are going for treatment before they might need to but I also understand why they do. Everything you say is right and I just hope that the more and more we all say it, that education will come! Jessica x