National Infertility Awareness Week: When Should Women Learn About Their Fertility?

It amazed me that my college friend, a very educated and successful woman, told me wasn’t going to start her family until after she was 35 because her eggs would still be good then.  Well, she was right, and she was successful after 35, but not everyone is so lucky.

I along with another one of our friends have really struggled. In fact, one in eight couples will have to deal with infertility. I’m that one in eight.  Fortunately, I was successful with help.

I think as a society, we are very good about teaching girls when they are fertile, when they can get pregnant and how to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. Most of us spend most of our sexually active lives trying to avoid sperm and getting pregnant.

Until that day when you decide its time and you want all the unprotected sex possible.

Results from an online national survey of 1,208 women ages 25-45 without children from Fertility Centers of Illinois found that 79% of women felt that fertility should be discussed in sex education in school, while 89% felt that their OB/GYN should mention fertility education during a doctor visit.

I don’t see the utility of teaching 11 year olds about fertility choices and a decline in fertility in the 30’s, our focus should be to teach them about making responsible choices. The study above looked at high school students. While more education is always better, it needs to be a careful message.   An annual exam with an OB/GYN seems like a possible opportunity, but there are so many things to discuss in a short 15 minute visit for a general OB/GYN, I doubt that’s reasonable either unless a patient brings it up.

Seems like college would be a great time, and I hope that with all the attention in the media to egg freezing, more and more young women are thinking about taking control of their fertility and understanding their options to protect their future. It’s important to understand the menstrual cycle, when are your highest chances of getting pregnant, what warning signs to look for and when to seek help.

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, but I think the real focus should be on fertility awareness as well. Women of all childbearing ages can be empowered by learning about their personal fertility and decide their family planning choices accordingly.

NIAW is also a great opportunity to shed light on teaching women when to see a fertility specialist. At Fertility Centers of Illinois we are offering free Fertility Awareness Checkups, hosting free events and webinars, and sharing information to help people learn about their fertility (visit www.FCIOnline.com/NIAW). You can also learn more or receive support at the Beat Infertility Podcast and from RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. Learning more may be just what the doctor ordered!

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