One in six Australian couples will have difficulties conceiving a child, with age being the biggest factor affecting fertility. Women under 30 have about a 20% chance of getting pregnant each month, falling to about 5% at age 40.
New research shows most Australians don’t know how early their fertility starts to decline and have too much confidence in IVF as a back-up measure.
A survey of more than 700 Australians of reproductive age, conducted for Your Fertility, found more than half (58%) believed a woman’s fertility starts to decline from age 35 or older – only 31% knew the decline starts around age 30. Just 14% understood that male fertility declines from about the age of 45.
Most respondents also overestimated IVF success rates, estimating more than 20% for a woman in her 40s.
Dr Karin Hammarberg, a Senior Research Fellow at Monash University and Senior Research Officer at the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA), said the lack of fertility education is “striking”.
“IVF cannot work miracles. The chance of having a baby after one IVF attempt is about 30% for women aged under 35, but it’s only about 10% for women aged 40–44,’ Dr Hammarberg said. For women over 45 there’s almost zero chance.”
From news stories of happy families, to optimistic advertising on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, IVF’s often glowing, if not unbalanced, portrayal may have something to do with the public’s overestimation of its success rates.
And in a ABC investigation earlier this year, IVF clinics themselves were under the spotlight for misleading patients:
“The for-profit model of most IVF clinics has led to the use of unproven and unregulated treatments. And a lack of transparency around success rates — for example, when clinics report pregnancy rates, rather than live birth rates — makes some patients feel deceived.
In their submissions to the ABC, countless respondents have pleaded for greater regulation and oversight of the fertility industry, wishing their care was handled more sensitively.”
Given the misconceptions around fertility as well as the risks of physical and emotional harm associated with IVF, those promoting it must be held to an especially high standard when it comes to providing full and accurate information about the practice.