Most adults do not know when fertility levels decline

More than seven in 10 adults do not know when fertility declines, a study shows. A national survey reveals that 41% of Irish people incorrectly believe that fertility starts to decline at the age of 35 when, in fact, it occurs five years before that.

The study also shows that 46% of women say waiting for the right partner is the primary reason to delay having a baby, while 37% of men say finances is their main reason to put off fatherhood.

The report was commissioned by My Fertility Check — a self-referral fertility assessment service for men, women,and couples. It revealed that the majority of adults in Ireland are misinformed about the age at which fertility declines.

Commenting on the results, Head of Clinical Services at My Fertility Check, Mary McAuliffe, said: “I see so many women and couples attending for fertility treatment and IVF who are surprised that it has proven so difficult to have a baby naturally.

“A substantial portion of adults think fertility declines at a much later age than it does in reality. Forty-one percent of people think the decline begins at 35 while one third believe it starts later — at 40 years. The proportion of people that are misinformed is of concern.”

Ms McAuliffe said the results of the study highlighted the need for a nationwide state funded education campaign on fertility and reproductive health, targeting students at third level.

“Young people need to be educated on the lifestyle choices that can affect their fertility; in particular, age, smoking, alcohol, and health issues such as sexually transmitted diseases,” she said.

Some 86% of respondents said they had never had a fertility assessment. Six out of 10 of these said it was because they were unaware of the existence of fertility check services.

“Having a fertility check at an earlier age will empower people with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their future plans for starting a family and, will also help them avoid the emotional and high costs associated with fertility treatment,” said Ms McAuliffe.

“From fertility awareness studies and population surveys, we have learned that most young people are too optimistic about their chances to conceive spontaneously after age 35. Also, young people tend to overestimate the effectiveness of IVF, in part due to the number of celebrities giving birth in their forties and, also due to ‘miracle’ stories in the media.”

Respondents were also asked on why people in Ireland are leaving it later in life to start a family. A recent Eurostat survey showed that first time mothers in Ireland are among the oldest in Europe, with 52% aged between 30 and 39.

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