What Women Told Us About Fertility in 2018
What women told us about fertility in 2018
By Nina Passero, Product and User Research Associate, Celmatix
Before joining Celmatix, I thought about fertility the way a lot of women do: Between your first period and menopause, you can probably get pregnant when you want to. If you can’t, you undergo fertility treatment. I knew it was more complicated than that, but I figured I’d learned enough in high school biology to get by until I started thinking about having kids.
What I didn’t know was how important it can be for a woman to learn as much as possible about her body early on, long before she’s ready to get pregnant. Understanding the basics is crucial to making better decisions about when to start trying, how to balance that with your career, and what to do if you can’t get pregnant or if you know you want to wait until your 30s to do it.
At Celmatix, we hear about this problem from fertility doctors all the time. To address it, however, we first need to understand it. That’s why I spent 2018 surveying over 3,000 women and 200 healthcare professionals to learn what questions or misconceptions women have about their bodies, where they’re going for answers, and what kinds of roadblocks they run into along the way.
The need for fertility education
Close to half of women say they learn about fertility from the internet, which is so saturated with information that it’s hard to tell fact from fiction.
A survey of 500 women showed that almost a quarter of them believe the myths that certain sex positions can determine a child’s gender, or that having an orgasm can help you get pregnant. Almost 40% of women don’t believe that their risk of miscarriage increases as they age, and the vast majority (75%) overestimate how many days per cycle they can get pregnant.
This survey also revealed that more than half of women believe that antidepressants can affect their fertility, and 41% think that having an abortion can, too. To be clear, there’s no medical research that supports these myths. In fact, several studies suggest that use of antidepressants and a history of abortion don’t affect a woman’s fertility at all.
These results are startling because they show that women may be making big decisions about their reproductive health (or their health overall) based on falsehoods.
The fertility conversation women and physicians aren’t having
After learning how many women are getting inaccurate information from the internet, I wanted to find out if they are at least balancing it with good information from their doctors.
We found that 79% of women agreed that physicians are the most trusted source of fertility information. However, 59% of them said their doctor had never initiated a conversation about fertility, even though a third of fertility doctors say that they think many patients don’t seek help soon enough.
There are also racial disparities in how frequently doctors speak to women about their reproductive health. Our survey in partnership with Women’s Health Magazine and O Magazine revealed that 43% of caucasian patients report that their doctors started fertility conversations, as compared to only 36% of African American patients. Studies have found staggering differences in pregnancy outcomes, including maternal and infant death, based on race and ethnicity, so recognizing and addressing this disparity in physician and patient communication may be key in solving the larger problem.
Moving forward, patients and physicians alike need to work together to shatter the stigma and fear around fertility so that we all feel more comfortable starting the conversation.
The importance of fertility conversations with loved ones
In addition to hindering conversations between women and their doctors, the stigma surrounding fertility can also affect women’s conversations with their friends, family, and partners.
In our survey with engaged and newly married women, we learned that while 84% of women talked with their partners about having children while they were dating, 40% of women did not discuss the possibility of facing fertility challenges before getting married. We also learned that 57% of women had not spoken to their friends about fertility and 52% had not spoken to their families. Additionally, almost a third of women do not know when their mother started menopause, which is a strong predictor of their own fertility window.
The most common reason women cite for why they don’t have these conversations with their friends and family is the personal nature of the topic. In short, it’s awkward! Getting past this is key, however, because the culture of silence around fertility often makes women feel isolated and prevents them from getting the support they need and deserve.
Taking these learnings into 2019
My work talking to and surveying women about their thoughts, fears, and beliefs about fertility has crystallized the fact that when a woman is in control of her health, she is largely in control of her life. Learning about your reproductive health is not just about getting pregnant. It’s about empowering yourself with knowledge about how your body works so you can make informed and confident life choices, in the coming year and beyond.
That’s why we launched the #SaytheFword campaign in 2018, and created these helpful resources to help you talk to your family about their reproductive health history, prepare for your first appointment with a fertility specialist, and understand your personalized likelihood of getting pregnant and options for what to do next.