Contradictory Messages About Fertility Are Causing Women 'Unnecessary Worry'

"Women deserve high quality, evidence-based information."

From news headlines to adverts for the latest IVF treatments, women are bombarded with information concerning our own fertility.

But the constant references to our biological clocks are leaving many of us confused about how much time we actually have if we want to become parents.

Four out of five (86%) UK women say information from different sources seems contradictory, according to new data from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

Almost half of us have worried about our fertility (49%) at some point, with a quarter (25%) of 18-24 year-olds currently concerned.

Meanwhile more than three quarters (76%) of women are not sure if fertility information is impartial and unbiased.

The survey findings also reveal that three out of five UK women (62%) report feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of advice on offer. Four out five women (81%) say that it is not always clear that information is promoting particular clinics or treatments.

Katy Lindemann, 37, from London, experienced this first-hand when she was seeking fertility treatment.

When going through fertility treatment it can feel like clinics are the merchants of hope, but if different specialists are telling you, and selling you, different things, deciding what to do can be overwhelming,” she said.

“There’s also a wealth of weird, wonderful and downright crazy stuff to try, that someone on the internet swears worked for them, which of course you end up doing, because you’re desperate - and don’t want to feel guilty that you didn’t try hard enough.”

To address these problems, the RCOG is hosting its first Fertility Forum information day later this month, bringing together experts, professionals and the public. Organised by the RCOG, the UK’s fertility regulator the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and British Fertility Society (BFS), the event is designed to give women evidence-based advice they can trust.

Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said the research highlights just how carefully we need to communicate messages about fertility and infertility.

“It’s often suggested that women are ignorant about the decline in fertility as they get older – if anything many young women are acutely aware that they may experience difficulties conceiving and worry about this – often without any good reason,” she said. “At Bpas we see women convinced an episode of chlamydia had left them infertile, or that their ability to conceive would be significantly reduced because of their weight.

“Women deserve high quality, evidence-based information about fertility communicated in a respectful way to help inform their decisions across their reproductive lifecourse.”

The Fertility Forum will take place on Saturday 30 March. Visit the RCOG’s website for more information and booking.