The CREATE Health Foundation, led by CREATE’s Medical Director Professor Geeta Nargund is funding a new pilot scheme in Merton which aims to educate young people about fertility and the realities of trying to conceive at different stages of life. She argues that it is important to make sure that education around fertility focuses on conception as well as contraception.
In this revolutionary pilot scheme, 12 secondary schools in the Merton area will be offering fertility advice as part of relationship lessons for 16-18 year olds. This will include lessons on the ways that lifestyle can impact fertility and about the way that fertility declines over age, particularly for women who see their fertility decrease rapidly after the age of 35.
Professor Geeta Nargund, the force behind the initiative, argues that youngsters need to be taught about fertility issues in order to avoid disappointment later in life.'I've seen so many career women delay having children and then become shocked when they fail to conceive naturally’ she says. Professor Nargund believes that educating young people about the realities of fertility early in life will ensure that they make informed decisions in the future.
Not everybody has got on board with the idea of fertility education, and the initiative has faced some criticism for putting more pressure on young girls to have children. Claire Murphy of the British Pregnancy Advice Service told the Daily Mail: ‘Women understand that fertility declines with age - they are now subject to relentless warnings about the dangers of leaving it too late, accused of playing reproductive roulette…There is no fertility crisis in this country. Women are simply starting their families later, and doing so for many understandable reasons.’She believes that women already face a bombardment of warnings about falling fertility without including this in school curriculums. Others argue that focusing on conception rather than contraception may encourage teenage pregnancy, although rates have actually been falling for many years.
However, others have supported the scheme, including the headteachers involved in the pilot who are enthusiastic about educating older children on this topic. Leader of Merton Council Stephen Alambritis argued ‘we owe it to our older pupils to give them as much information as possible to make life choices and health choices, including fertility education.’ Female fertility starts to decline rapidly after 35, and the number of women in this age group trying for children has been rising in recent years, with over a fifth of children now born to women in their late 30s or older. The CREATE Health Foundation is aiming to address this trend and hope to gradually expand their pilot scheme to more schools before asking for funding from the Department of Education.