Fertility education should be compulsory in schools, says Simon Fishel IVF pioneer and co-founder of menopause delay procedure ProFaM.
Scientist Professor Fishel, who worked alongside ‘test-tube’ baby trailblazers Sir Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe, says education is key.
“I believe strongly that young people should have as much education on these matters as possible if we want to make a major impact on preventing infertility,” he said.
“There has been a huge success in preventing pregnancies through sex and relationships education in schools, but youngsters learn next to nothing about fertility.
“Yet, contraception and conception are two sides of the same coin.
“There is a feeling that reproduction should be left in the providence of the divine, and that somehow it’s different to other medical conditions.
“Yet, having a greater understanding of how their bodies work will enable women to stand a better chance of falling pregnant when they choose to in the future.
“Men have a biological clock too. It’s more insidious as it relates to issues of the health of the child and miscarriage, but this needs to be taught too.
“I believe individuals should have the liberty and respect to make informed choices.”
Prof Fishel is urging the Government to add fertility education to the sex education curriculum so teenagers can make informed decisions for their future lives.
“Many women fail to appreciate what causes reduced fertility – either dramatically or over their reproductive life-span – and therefore don’t know the relationship to egg numbers,” he added.
“And apart from help from the media, or knowing what to ask online – which can be tricky as there is as much scaremongering and misinformation as there is good advice – it isn’t always easy.
“Many women will put off having children until later into their 30’s but fail to appreciate that this may well be at a time when their fertility will be reducing,” he added.
“They may see celebrities having children in their late 30s and early 40s and assume they will be able to do the same, but many of those will have had fertility treatment, often with donor eggs.
“And by the time they visit their GP or approach a specialist it may be too late to conceive without the help of fertility treatment, while others may find they are no longer able to conceive at all.”
Prof Fishel says many young people are also unaware that lifestyle factors including drugs and alcohol consumption, obesity and STIs can all have effects on short or long-term fertility.
In July the Government announced that from next year secondary school pupils will learn about the menopause during sex and health education.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party is promising a ‘step-change’ in women’s working rights if they come to power with managers at large firms to be trained in supporting staff going through the menopause
Prof Fishel launched ProFaM Protecting Fertility and Menopause) alongside endometriosis and advanced laparoscopic surgery consultant Mr Yousri Afifi in August attracting worldwide interest.
ProFaM is the first organisation in the world to offer young women the prospect of freezing some of their ovarian tissue to preserve their natural hormones for use later in life.
Further information: www.profam.co.uk