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"This study brings to the forefront gaps in women's knowledge about their reproductive health,
and highlights women's concerns that are often not discussed with health providers,"
Jessica Illuzzi, M.D., associate professor, Department of Obstetrics,
Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, Yale School of Medicine..
The science of baby-making a mystery for many
A new study by Yale School of Medicine study found that about 50% of reproductive-age women in the United States have never discussed their reproductive health with a medical doctor or nurse and about 30% visit their reproductive health provider less than once a year — or never.
The study was Published in the Jan. 27 issue of Fertility & Sterility. It is based on an online anonymous survey conducted in March 2013 of 1,000 women between the ages of 18 and 40 representing all ethnic and geographic regions of the U.S. census. The survey included questions to assess knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices regarding conception, pregnancy, and basic reproductive health-related concepts.
"This study, on one hand, brings to the forefront gaps in women's knowledge about their reproductive health, and on the other, highlights women's concerns that are often not discussed with health providers," said senior author Jessica Illuzzi, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine. "It is important that these conversations happen in this ever-changing family landscape."
The major findings by Illuzzi and colleagues include:
40% of reproductive-age women surveyed expressed concern about their ability to conceive.
50% were unaware that multivitamins with folic acid are recommended to reproductive-age women to prevent birth defects.
25% were unaware of the adverse implications of sexually transmitted infections, obesity, smoking, or irregular menses on fertility.
20% were unaware of the adverse effects of aging on reproductive success, including increased miscarriage rates, chromosomal abnormalities, and increased length of time to achieve conception.
Illuzzi said the survey also revealed some confusion about optimizing conception.
50% of respondents believed having sex more than once per day would increase their chances of conception
33% believed specific sexual positions and elevating the pelvis would similarly increase their success with achieving pregnancy.
Only 10% were aware that intercourse needs to occur before ovulation, not after, to optimize conception.
Co-author Lubna Pal, associate professor in the section of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Yale, noted, "We found that 40% of women in the survey believed that their ovaries continue to produce new eggs during reproductive years. This misconception is of particular concern, especially in a society where women are increasingly delaying pregnancy."
To assess overall knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to conception and fertility among reproductive-age women in the United States.
Online survey of a cross-sectional sample of 1,000 women.
United States, March 2013.
Women aged 18–40 years.
Main Outcome Measure(s)
Knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding selected topics in reproductive health.
Forty percent of women across all age groups expressed concerns about their ability to conceive. Yet one-third of women were unaware of adverse implications of sexually transmitted infections, obesity, or irregular menses for procreative success, and one-fifth were unaware of the effects of aging. Approximately 40% were unfamiliar with the ovulatory cycle. Overall, younger women (18–24 years) demonstrated less knowledge regarding conception, fertility, and ovulation, whereas older women tended to believe in common myths and misconceptions. Respondents in all age groups identified women’s health care providers (75%) and Web sites (40%) as top sources of reproductive health–related information; however, engagement with providers on specific factors affecting fertility is sparse.
Knowledge regarding ovulation, fertility, and conception is limited among this sample of reproductive-age US women. Future initiatives should prioritize improved provider engagement and accurate information dissemination in Web-based venues.
Other authors on the study include first author Lisbet S. Lundsberg, Aileen M. Gariepy, M.D., Xiao Xu, and Micheline C. Chu, M.D.
Citation: Fertility & Sterility doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2013.11.033 (Link will be active when study is posted online)
The study was supported by an unrestricted educational grant by Church and Dwight, Co., Inc., manufacturers of FIRST RESPONSE™.