Only 20 percent of US women know when they are most fertile.
That’s according to a new survey of 1,000 US women aged 20 to 45 years old, which exposes a severe lack of knowledge about fertility.
And yet, another paper found most fertility preservation clinics’ websites, while esthetically pleasing, do little to dispel that confusion, with most scrimping on basic details about fertility and jumbling the facts.
Experts warn the studies, being presented this week at the American College of Gynecology’s annual meeting in Nashville, highlight America’s gaping gap in fertility knowledge, which is providing fertile ground for egg-freezing and IVF clinics to do business.
Confusion about fertility – and fears of infertility – have fueled a thriving business of fertility clinics, with egg-freezing wine-and-freeze nights , pop-up vans , and boutiques materializing at a spectacular rate in wealthy cities like New York, LA and DC, where fertility preservation is most prolific in the US
The first study, by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine working with a survey company, found only 20 percent of women knew that they were only fertile three to six days in their cycle.
Only 14 percent of them could accurately describe a menstrual cycle, and only 27 percent of them managed to guess what days they were most fertile.
In fact, 16 percent thought they were most fertile during their period.
‘This survey found a basic gap in fertility knowledge for many US women,’ lead author Michael J Zinaman, MD, said.
‘Especially worrying was the proportion of these women who believed that pregnancy was possible following intercourse on any day of the cycle.’
Jake Anderson, co-founder of FertilityIQ, which analyzes the quality of fertility doctors and clinics, warns ‘this is a natural byproduct of ignoring fertility education.’
He says patients concerned about their fertility should take it upon themselves to get their facts straight, but that the uphill struggle is made steeper by poor education in schools.
‘We obsess about how to make sure people do not get pregnant prematurely and invest very little in talking about natural biology and how hard it can be to conceive,’ Anderson told DailyMail.com.
‘It means people become frantic that they left it too late, sometimes needlessly.’
Anderson points to the shift in England, where secondary school students will this year start fertility lessons, as an example for the US, where many states do not broach the subject at all.
Dr Zinaman warned the misunderstanding could lead to heartache for couples who believe they are struggling to conceive.
Confusion about fertility – and fears of infertility – have fueled a thriving business of fertility clinics, with egg-freezing wine-and-freeze nights, pop-up vans, and boutiques materializing at a spectacular rate in wealthy cities like New York, LA and DC, where fertility preservation is most prolific in the US.
Despite the eye-watering cost – around $15,000-20,000 plus storage – the rate of women putting their eggs on ice has soared in recent years.
Women who undergo the procedure are told as they begin that it is not a guarantee.
For the 10 percent of women that do use their frozen eggs, many say it empowered them to dodge the standard childbearing schedule, to date around, have a longer child-free career, or to wait until they felt more financially, mentally, and logistically stable to raise children.
But the peppy marketing and warnings of impending barrenness can instill fear, then hope, then bitter disappointment if those eggs are lost or don’t produce a pregnancy.
In ‘I Spent $17K Freezing My Eggs And I Regret Every Penny‘, a personal essay for Glamour last month, writer Hannah Selinger describes borrowing money from her family to pay for egg-freezing because she was single, 34, and feared she would soon be unable to conceive.
A couple of years later she was married and conceived naturally.
A year later, she found out her eggs on ice had been destroyed after her ‘rent’ to store them expired, and the place storing them couldn’t get hold of her.
She wrote: ‘What was the point of the degradation of begging for money, of the needles, the ultrasounds, the weight gain, the bloating? What was the point of sinking $17,000 into a procedure that carried no guarantees?’
Brigitte Adams, who became the face of egg-freezing in 2014 when she appeared on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek with the headline ‘Freeze your eggs, freeze your career’, spoke to DailyMail.com about her confusion over her fertility, and the crushing experience of learning six years later that her 11 eggs were too damaged to use.
‘There’s a hell of a lot more counseling that can be done up front,’ Adams said.
According to new research by Yi-Hong Shao of McGill University, also being presented at the ACOG meeting, while most sites are appealing and attractive, few provide clear information.
Shao reviewed 21 of the most-used websites for fertility preservation, and found most of them (57 percent) contained less than half of the information required by the Canadian Fertility & Andrology Society, which mirrors US guidelines.
Most of the sites were highly complex – requiring a Grade 11 reading level, rather than Grade 8, as public service information should be designed for.
‘Online information on social fertility preservation is easily accessible and esthetically pleasing, but it is not easily readable and does not reflect evidence-based recommendations,’ Shao said.
‘In light of our findings, physicians must fill the knowledge gaps and adequately counsel their patients to optimize a woman’s chance at a successful pregnancy.’
But FertilityIQ’s Anderson cautions that there is also naiveté to assume that fertility clinics have your best interests at heart.
‘I think it’s the patients’ responsibility to understand these things,’ Anderson told DailyMail.com.
‘We should all come to the understanding that not all doctors have incentives in line with the patients.
‘Doctors take a Hippocratic Oath but at the same time two-thirds of these clinics are private practices, and they take an oath of making money for their shareholders. So that puts doctors in an awkward position. You can’t rely on doctors to surface these facts.’