Contraception should come with a ‘don’t leave it too late’ fertility warning, according to one of the UK’s top fertility doctors.
The former chair of the British Fertility Society Professor Adam Balen told Newstalk Breakfast that more and more people are attending fertility clinics in their late thirties and early forties, “not realising they may have left it too late” to have children.
He said women planning to have one child should start trying in their early thirties, while those planning larger families should “really be thinking about it by your mid-twenties.”
He said including a warning on contraceptive packets would ensure young people are “empowered with full information” about their fertility.
“It is not saying don’t use contraception, we’re not for a minute suggesting that.
“I think it is very important young people are fully informed about all aspects so family planning is not just about avoiding an unwanted pregnancy but ensuring young people can plan for the families they want at a time they want it.
“Because we are seeing a rising prevalence of infertility and we have seen that of young women born today, about 20% have not had a child compared with 10% in their mother’s generation.”
He said the decline is partly down to personal choice – but said we need to do more to ensure people are fully aware of the realities of fertility.
“We know there are many young people who are choosing not to have a family and of course we respect everybody’s wish to do what they feel is right for them, but I think what many don’t appreciate is that having a family is often having more than just one child,” he said.
“If you want to have one child, you need to start trying by the time you are in your early 30s but if you are wanting a family of two or three you should really be thinking about it by your mid-twenties.”
Professor Balen also called for an improved information campaign about fertility for young men.
“We are very aware that young men have very little knowledge actually about fertility and so it is not only talking about age, it is talking about smoking, abuse of recreational drugs and anabolic steroids in gyms for boys,” he said. “All of these things can have a negative effect on fertility.”
He said the plan aims to get people thinking about fertility at an earlier age.
“We see increasingly people coming to infertility clinics often in their late thirties and early forties not realising that they may have left it too late,” he said.
“So, the notion here is to find other times during people’s lives to actually reintroduce these thoughts about when should you be thinking about starting a family and awareness about all the many factors that may have an adverse effect on fertility.”