ASRM takes on fertility knowledge gap, 'personhood' legislation

February 1, 2012

Younger women have gaps in fertility knowledge; Few IVF patients with high-quality embryos choose eSET; Women are waiting too long to freeze their eggs; 'Personhood' legislation could hinder IVF

Results from a national survey of women's knowledge about fertility and conception, single versus multiple embryo transfer rates, and delayed oocyte cryopreservation were on the minds of clinicians attending the 67th annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) in Orlando, Florida, October 15-19, 2011. Also of concern to ASRM leadership was the potential threat to assisted reproductive efforts of the "personhood" bill on the ballot in Mississippi in the November general election.

Younger women have gaps in fertility knowledge

Fertility knowledge among women of prime childbearing age in the United States is generally on target, but most women underestimate the magnitude of the decline of fertility with increasing age, according to the results of an online survey.

Half (49%) indicated that their ob/gyn was their current source of fertility information, and 64% responded that their ob/gyn was their preferred information source. Nearly all women (94%) reported being confident in the fertility counsel provided by their obstetrician/gynecologist.

"We found that women are generally well informed about general aspects of infertility and reproductive health, such as mentioning age as the strongest risk factor for infertility; however, when we look more closely at their knowledge about the specific impact of age on infertility, we found that women overestimate the chances of pregnancy at the different ages, and underestimate the time to pregnancy," said Fulton F. Velez, MD, associate director of Health Outcomes and Market Access at EMD Serono (Rockville, Maryland), who presented the survey at ASRM.

On average, the women had a fertility IQ of 3.3 on a 1 to 10 scale. Seventy-eight percent of respondents answered correctly that fertility declines more than a decade prior to menopause, 70% identified a correct trend for the average time to conception if having unprotected sex, and 89% identified a correct trend for the likelihood of conception among women of different age groups after 1 month.

However, 9 of 10 respondents overestimated the chance of women in different age groups achieving pregnancy after unprotected sex, and most underestimated the time to conception after unprotected sex.

Most of the women correctly disagreed with false statements regarding fertility, but 38% agreed with the false statement that taking oral contraceptives for more than 5 years negatively affects future fertility, and another 40% neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement.

The results indicate important gaps in knowledge about fertility and the need for further education, said Velez. "More can be done to educate women about age as a risk factor and how they can preserve their fertility at increasing age, such as preserving their eggs if they haven't found a partner to start a family with by a certain age."