Young people don’t understand the impact of age when planning a family

 
  • New research reveals that having children in the future is equally important to male and female university students, but they have poor understanding of when fertility declines
  • The study highlights the challenges for young people, particularly university-educated women, in balancing study, career and other life goals with parenthood

Most students underestimate how much age affects the chance of having a baby, according to new research published today.

The study, involving 1,215 University of Melbourne students, found less than half correctly identified 35-39 years as the age at which female fertility declines significantly and less than one in five correctly identified 45-49 years as the age when male fertility declines.

Having children was equally important to the male and female students surveyed. Many wanted to complete their families before a significant decline in fertility occurred while also expecting to achieve many other life goals before becoming parents.

Women were more likely than men to rate completing their studies, advancing in their profession, having work that can be combined with parenthood and having access to childcare as important before starting a family.

The paper’s lead author, Dr Eugenie Prior, said: “Our study shows that university students overwhelmingly want to be parents one day. However, most also have unrealistic expectations of what they want to achieve before having children, whether that be in their career or financially. We need to educate young people about the limits of fertility and support them to become parents at a point that is ideal biologically, while balanced against the life goals they want to achieve.” 

Dr Raelia Lew, co-author and reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist at the Royal Women’s Hospital, said the study reflected the attitudes and knowledge of many patients she and her fellow clinicians saw on a daily basis.

“What we’re seeing is a big social disconnect between young people’s views and goals, and biological reality,” Dr Lew said.

Louise Johnson, co-author and CEO of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA), said enhanced community-wide education was crucial in raising awareness among young Australians in order for them to make informed choices.

“We need to educate young people about the limits of fertility and support them to become parents at a point that is ideal biologically, while balanced against the life goals they want to achieve,” Ms Johnson said. 

VARTA and Family Planning Victoria have produced a fertility and assisted reproductive treatment teaching resource for schools to raise awareness of the factors affecting fertility.

Further information:

•   'Fertility facts, figures and future plans: an online survey of university students' published in Human Fertility today can be found here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14647273.2018.1482569

•   The Fertility and Reproductive Treatment: Teaching Module can be found here: https://www.varta.org.au/resources/publications/fertility-and-assisted- reproduction-teaching-module

•   For further information about fertility awareness and the Your Fertility program:

https://yourfertility.org.au/

For further enquiries

Marjorie Solomon, PR Officer at VARTA

Phone: (03) 8622 0503 / 0452 515 302; email: [email protected]

Michelle Carnovale, Senior Media Advisor at the Royal Women’s Hospital

Phone: (03) 8345 2921/ 0404 527 711; email: [email protected]

Authors available for comment

Dr Eugenie Prior, lead author on the paper, who can discuss the research findings and her perspective as a young doctor.

Dr Raelia Lew is a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist at the Royal Women’s Hospital and Melbourne IVF and Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne.

Louise Johnson is VARTA CEO and spokesperson for Your Fertility, a national, government-funded public education program designed to raise awareness about the ways people can increase their chances of getting pregnant naturally.

Dr Karin Hammarberg is a senior research officer at VARTA and a senior research fellow in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University.