The British Fertility Society (BFS) has suggested that women from the age of 25 should be offered so-called ‘fertility MOTs’ on the NHS.
Central to these check-ups should be counting how ovaries these young women have left remaining.
Despite the fact that fertility actually diminishes rapidly during a woman’s thirties, this is a morsel of information that often escapes the notice of couples attempting to produce a baby.
Indeed, Prof. Adam Balen suggested that “every week in our clinics I see couples where surprise is expressed – they didn’t realise the degree to which fertility goes down in your 30s.”
In particular, the British Fertility Society noted that career women who consider themselves to be ‘in control’ on their own lives were often surprisingly ignorant of their dwindling ovarian reserve.
With this in mind, a national system of five-year checks, beginning at the age of 25, could help prevent women who wish to conceive from being unable to do so due to lack of ovarian produce, according to the BFS.
Cervical screening would be central to this process, but the British Fertility Society has also called for a wider program of education.
In particular, the aforementioned Balen has suggested that lessons for teenage girls and university students in how to protect and prolong fertility should be considered essential.
Family planning lessons should also be carried out at both schools and universities, as far too many women are currently optimistic about their biological clocks on the basis of anecdotal evidence.
“There is lack of understanding of the dramatic decline in fertility, and there are pressures to develop careers,” Balen suggested.
With regard to the new schemes, it has been pointed out that such checks are already offered regularly in other countries, with Denmark being a particular pioneer.
Regular screening could allow women to have a real insight into their current level of fertility, which could then have an impactful benefit on their decision or otherwise to attempt to conceive.
Women should also be given diet and lifestyle advice, with obesity and anorexia – which damage fertility – both on the rise according to advice from the British Fertility Society.
This latest advice comes in the context of a trend in which the age of motherhood continues to rise.
With this increasing average age of mothers, comes a parallel increase in the risk of infertility, miscarriage or babies suffering abnormalities.
Figures have also indicated that British women begin families later than equivalent females in other countries.
The average age at which women conceive in the UK is 30, which represents an increase of nearly two years in the last twenty years alone.
This figure compares to 28 in France and Scandinavian countries, and just 25 in the United States.
Balen suggested that the late 20s or early 30s should be considered the latest point for young couples to start a family.
There were 695,233 live births in England and Wales in 2014, a decrease of 0.5 per cent from 698,512 in 2013, and the total fertility rate decreased to 1.83 children per woman, from 1.85 in 2013.