Tips for Talking to Patients About Fertility

Jennifer L.W. Fink, BSN

Disclosures

September 12, 2016

Age is the single greatest risk factor for infertility. But when the media celebrates the pregnancies of 40-plus-year-old celebrities—without going into detail about how they conceived—patients tend to assume that pregnancy in the fifth decade of life is reasonable.

The truth, though, "is that many of those individuals are not using their own eggs," says Thomas Molinaro, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist with Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey.

While this is common knowledge among reproductive specialists, it's not often discussed outside of the specialty, fertility experts say.

"In general, ob/gyns and general practitioners really lag behind in presenting information about infertility to women," says Sherry Ross, MD, a women's health expert and ob/gyn at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California.

That may be because general practitioners and ob/gyns are overwhelmed; addressing fertility in a 10- or 15-minute appointment is difficult, Dr Molinaro acknowledges.

Hence, many women harbor potentially harmful misconceptions about the impact of age on fertility. Fewer than 40% of women recalled discussing during their annual exam how to maximize the chances of a healthy pregnancy should they ever choose to conceive, reports a 2006 study in the Maternal and Child Health Journal.[1] A 2016 study by Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey paints an even dimmer picture: Only 25% of women surveyed say they've discussed fertility with their ob/gyns.[2]

How can ob/gyns and general practitioners sensitively incorporate fertility awareness into quick appointments? Here are some tips.

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