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The importance of educating young women and men about fertility

26. 4. 2016 -

For many years now, students were being taught about suppressing their sexual urges and postponing parethood. A recent summit took place in London which spoke about  the lack of knowledge of young people about their fertility which may leave them ill equipped to choose when to have children, prevent unplanned pregnancy or take steps to safeguard their fertility.

The Summit aims to inspire debate and action on how to improve young people’s knowledge of fertility and reproductive health, to ensure they are equipped with the right information to make informed decisions about their own fertility journey, or others they have an impact on. The event will hear from health and education professionals, as well as young people’s groups and charities. Also speaking is the broadcaster Alex Jones, who is making a documentary about fertility and has spoken about the difficulties women face trying to balance their careers with motherhood.

Summit organiser Professor Adam Balen, Chair of the British Fertility Society, said: “The findings of this survey confirm our fears that many young people encounter few opportunities to learn about their reproductive health until they try to conceive. One in 6 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.”

Professor Lesley Regan, a fertility expert and Vice President for Strategic Development at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “While the risks should never be overplayed, men and women should be aware that reproductive outcomes are worse in older women. As well as it potentially taking longer to get pregnant, later maternity can involve a greater risk of miscarriage, a more complicated labour, and medical intervention at the birth.

“The wide range of social, professional and financial factors influencing the increasing age at which women are having their first baby is unlikely to be reversed dramatically, but it’s important that both men and women are aware of when male and female fertility starts to decline.

“We also believe more should be done as a society to help people who would like to start a family earlier, for example, maternity pay, job security for women with young children, access to flexible working and the cost of childcare are all prohibitive factors to having children sooner.”

Dr Chris Wilkinson, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare and a consultant in sexual and reproductive healthcare, said: “The findings of this survey support the need for young people to be better informed about fertility and reproductive health. 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.”

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