Young People’s Chances of Parenthood at Risk

Experts have said young adults are putting their future chances of becoming parents at risk by their lack of knowledge about fertility.

Many young people don’t learn about their reproductive health until they’re trying to conceive, they said.

The comments come ahead of a conference of leading fertility experts – they’re coming together to address how the nation can improve young people’s knowledge of fertility.

“Many young people encounter few opportunities to learn about their reproductive health until they try to conceive,” said Professor Adam Balen, chairman of the British Fertility Society, who organised the summit.

“One in six couples experience difficulties in becoming pregnant and the associated emotional and physical impacts cannot be underestimated.

“Our aim is to ensure that the knowledge components of sex and relationship education not only cover how to avoid pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, but also include information about fertility to help people plan.

“It should be choice not chance – we want to enable young people to make informed choices about pregnancy, whether that choice is to start a family or not.”

Fertility rates for both sexes actually decline gradually from the late 20s, and can be affected by genetic and environmental factors such as smoking, obesity and nutrition.

But in a new poll, conducted to mark the Fertility summit, four in five of those polled thought a women’s fertility only started to decline after the age of 35.

And two-thirds of the 1,000 young adults surveyed thought men’s fertility only started to decline after the age of 40.

A third of the young women polled were unaware that being overweight or underweight affected fertility.

And 40% of these women mistakenly believe that having a miscarriage or being on the contraceptive pill for too long could adversely affect fertility.

Dr Chris Wilkinson, president of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare and a consultant in sexual and reproductive healthcare, said: “We remain concerned that sex and relationship education in schools is not universal.

“Where it does occur, this education can be variable and time spent on it is often very limited.

“We strongly urge governments across the UK to improve the quality of sex and relationship education so young people leave school armed with the necessary facts about not only safe sex, contraception and consent but also fertility and reproductive health.”