Many OB-GYNs were found uncomfortable counseling their patients on fertility, at a time while more women are delaying pregnancy, finds a new study. Researchers found that doctors need to be more vigilant about providing this education to their patients.
“We found that most OB-GYNs don’t bring up fertility with every patient, often because they believe the patient would bring it up if she wanted to discuss it,” said Rashmi Kudesia, MD, reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at Houston Methodist and CCRM Houston and lead author of the study.
It was found that the 117 physicians who participated in the study provided more counseling on contraception than fertility in nearly all age and relationship status groups. While, about 33.6% of participants felt uncomfortable providing fertility counseling, with time constraints being the top barrier (32.5%).
The researchers found that OB-GYNs were more likely to provide fertility counseling to married women between the ages of 27-40. For all age groups, single and lesbian women were less likely to receive fertility counseling than married women.
According to the study, 82% of OB-GYNs surveyed believe women receive mixed messages about their optimal fertility window, and 68% said women seem to believe they can indefinitely postpone making childbearing plans.
“It’s a missed opportunity when OB-GYNs don’t start the conversation because many women are routinely exposed to conflicting information about fertility, leading many to believe that they’ll have no issues conceiving and delivering,” said Kudesia.
“It isn’t unusual for women to believe that assisted reproductive technologies like IVF are their safety net because they hear so many success stories,” Kudesia said. “The reality is that IVF only has a 5% success rate for women in their mid-40s.”
Regardless of current relationship status or future plans for pregnancy, researchers suggest women bring up fertility while consulting their specialist.
Women who want to wait several years and even those who think they don’t want kids at all should still talk to their doctor about fertility so that they can make an informed decision about what is best for them, says Kudesia.
The study is published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine.