Leaving Cert biology should include sections on women’s fertility

Any new Leaving Cert biology textbooks should include sections outlining how women’s fertility falls sharply during their 30s, according to fertility experts.

Dr John Waterstone, president of the Irish Fertility Society and medical director of the Waterstone Clinic, said the message is not hitting home to men and women that if they want to avoid fertility difficulties, women should start trying to get pregnant in their late 20s and early 30s.

He said too many patients at fertility clinics are “losing sight of the biological realities” and are shocked to discover that due to their age, their egg quality is poor and their likelihood of conceiving is low.

He and his colleagues also want the Department of Health to consider a TV ad fertility campaign, not unlike TV ads on contraception, warning people in their late 20s and early 30s they should be “fertility conscious”.

The age at which Irishwomen have their first child has increased significantly in recent years with the average person having their first baby at 30.

About 20% of first births in 2013 were to women aged 35 years or older, compared to 13% in 2004. Surveys have shown that women defer having a baby because they have not met the right partner while others wish to focus on their careers.

But Dr Waterstone said a fertility campaign should not be confined to women: “If men are not making the big life decisions and are just fiddling around, they are doing the woman in their lives a disservice.”

The Irish Fertility Society’s 10th conference is taking place in Kildare this Friday and Saturday.