Fertility Fact vs. Fiction: Women Recognizing Age as a Major Obstacle

New Survey Reports 88% First Sought Medical Help Before Age 35

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Red Bank, NJ - Despite the recent baby boom amongst Hollywood actresses who are age 40+, a new survey released today by HealthyWomen (HW) suggests that women are becoming more cognizant that their biological clocks are ticking and as a result, are seeking fertility treatment sooner.  In fact, 88 percent of women surveyed were under the age of 35 when they first sought medical advice about their fertility.
 
As good as you may look on the outside (plastic surgery and Botox aside), the medical reality is that your eggs are as old as you are. The incidence of infertility now affects an estimated 12 percent of couples of reproductive age.  In fact, a healthy 30-year-old woman has about a 20 percent chance per month of becoming pregnant, and that chance falls to only about 5 percent per month for a 40-year-old woman.1

However, given that 76 percent of women reported that it was important to them to have a biological child, it may be wise for them to start thinking about their fertility even earlier. One study reported that a healthy woman age 19-26 has only a 50 percent chance of conceiving following intercourse on her most fertile day of the month and that probability falls to 40 percent for women ages 27-34 and 30 percent for women ages 35-39.2

“Unfortunately, conception is not always an easy process, which is why our organization is working to provide women and their partners with the information they need to make informed and healthy decisions when it comes to having a baby,” said Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, RN, executive director of HealthyWomen.

Conducted by Harris Interactive, the fifth annual, national Women TALK survey sought to understand women’s views and priorities when it comes to having biological children, as well as examining the experiences women have had seeking medical help to treat fertility problems.

Knowledge about Incidence and Risk Factors is Lacking

Among all women responding to the survey, 50 percent believed that fertility problems are equally as likely to be attributed to women as men and just 5 percent believed men are more likely to be infertile. In reality, women and men bear nearly equal responsibility with infertility with it being attributable to a female problem in 40 percent of cases, a male problem in 40 percent of cases, and a combined problem of the couple or unexplained in 20 percent of cases.3

In addition, while the vast majority of women know that medical conditions affecting the reproductive system (83 percent), age (83 percent), complications from STDs (80 percent) and ovulation problems (79 percent) are risk factors for infertility in women, they are less aware of other risk factors.

“Many factors and conditions can affect a women’s ability to conceive naturally. Some of these include being overweight or underweight, and chronic health conditions such as diabetes and thyroid disorders, substance abuse, alcohol consumption and some medications,“ said Battaglino Cahill, a practicing maternal fetal nurse.  “It is important that a woman work closely with her health care provider to determine the best plan for maintaining optimal health while trying to conceive a child while also assessing her partner’s health and possible fertility issues.” 

Women Find Fertility Treatments Highly Stressful but Worthwhile

Although women who have had fertility treatment faced a variety of physical, emotional and financial challenges, overall they tend to view the experience positively, including their relationship with their partners during and after this time, and would recommend that others in similar situations try fertility treatment.

Of women who underwent fertility treatments: 88 percent of women found it emotionally challenging; 84 percent found it stressful; and 60 percent reported a negative impact on their self-esteem. Yet, 79 percent of women who underwent fertility treatments reported they felt hopeful; more than three-quarters (76 percent) reported their partners were supportive; and 33 percent reported the fertility treatments had a positive impact on their relationship

Many women know someone who has experienced fertility problems

About half of women have friends or family members who have experienced fertility problems (52 percent). Of the women who reported having had fertility treatment, 85 percent stated that they know of a friend of family member who has also experienced fertility problems, and 64 percent of women report it was very or extremely difficult to be around pregnant women or women with young children.

“Infertility itself is stressful. Patients have constant reminders of pregnancy and starting a family from friends and family, “ said Dr. Dale Stovall, an Obstetrician/Gynecologist and Professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville who specializes in reproductive endocrinology. “The public needs to be more aware of that in general. Stress affects fertility because it can have an impact on ovulation, and dealing with stress is very difficult.”

Vast majority of women who had fertility treatments had health insurance

While the majority of women who had fertility treatments had health insurance at the time of their treatment, most women had to pay at least some, and in some cases a great deal of money out of pocket to cover their fertility treatments. On average, about 56percent of the cost was covered by women’s insurance plans. Other common forms of payment include personal savings or cash, (53 percent) or credit cards (18 percent). Approximately 21 percent of insured women report that their insurance did not cover any of the cost of treatment.

HealthyWomen strives to provide women and men with the most up to date information and resources on fertility issues treatment. To find tip sheets on emotional support during treatment and how to determine the best plan for you and your partner if you are experiencing fertility issues, log on to the Pregnancy and Parenting center at www.HealthyWomen.org. Or for further highlights of this year’s and previous Women TALK surveys, visit the HealthyWomen online newsroom at www.HealthyWomen.org/newsroom.


About the Survey

The 2009 Women TALK survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of HealthyWomen between September 21 and September 28, 2009, among 763 women aged 18 or older, including 125 women who have had fertility treatment.

The group of women who have had fertility treatment includes women who have tried to become pregnant with a male partner as least once in their lives, and who responded that they have used one or more fertility treatments during at least one of the occasions when they tried to become pregnant with a male partner.

Results were weighted as needed for age, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income to represent the U.S. population of women 18 and older. Data for women who had fertility treatment were weighted to represent the US population of infertile women.

About HealthyWomen (HW)

The not-for-profit HealthyWomen organization is the leading independent health information source for women. HW develops and distributes up-to-date and objective women's health information based on the latest advances in medical research and practice. HW believes all women should have access to the most trusted and reliable health information. Information empowers women to make the best decisions to maintain and improve their health and the health of their families.

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

Download Women Talk 2009 Fact Sheet

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