ESHRE CAMPUS

Fertility education and reproductive decision-making: the latest evidence to be showcased at this ESHRE Campus Workshop

Lyon

Published 24 October 2023

The expected key message from this Campus in Lyon on 26 and 27 October is that school curricula globally should include reproductive health education.

Fertility and reproductive health are hot topics because total fertility rates are decreasing and the age at which men and women have their first child is increasing.

Yet the availability of information on how to improve the chance of conceiving remains limited, especially for teenagers and young adults. Indeed, the priority still in many schools is to inform children how to protect against unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Even some professionals working in the field of fertility lack knowledge about the best approaches to educate patients about reproductive health.

This workshop – which has been organised by SIGs Ethics and Law, Global and Socio-cultural Aspects of Infertility, and Psychology and Counselling – will bring together psychologists, public health nurses, fertility doctors and other experts. They will provide the latest insights on the need for more fertility education initiatives, how effective they are, and how to improve their delivery.
The introduction will be given by Joyce Harper, who co-founded the International Reproductive Health Education Collaboration (IRHEC), a multidisciplinary global collaboration to improve awareness around reproductive health.
Her overview will emphasise why reproductive health is not just about having babies and potential barriers to parenthood, but also about important reproductive health issues such as PCOS, endometriosis, and how best to approach menopause.
The first session of the Campus will then aim to explore the perception and the reality around fecundity and fertility. Juliana Pedro will outline the literature regarding fertility knowledge around the globe. Insights from the UK, Denmark and France will be provided into specific initiatives to encourage fertility education and into public health policies that have been developed to prevent involuntary childlessness.

The second day of the Campus will focus on what fertility education looks like in practice, the challenges and best approaches to promote the importance of reproductive health, and why the message must be tailored to different audiences.

Joyce Harper will outline the current state of fertility education in secondary schools and present evidence from a survey of English school children aged 16 to 18. These findings will show what the pupils are taught concerning pregnancy and STIs, and how much education they receive about factors that could undermine their future chance of conceiving.

Young adults will then take the spotlight with a talk by Jacky Boivin, who is expected to describe the priorities for fertility education among 18 to 24-year-olds. A key focus will be family (or ‘fertility’) planning: the decision to have children (or not), how many, at what age, and what is needed over time to make this a reality. Dr Boivin will examine data on education outcomes in low- and middle-income countries for this age group and research on the impact of introducing planning as well as the concept of readiness to conceive. During this presentation, attendees will also learn how fertility education has the potential to cause anxiety among people and how these feelings of threat can be alleviated.

But is fertility education effective? Eri Maeda will attempt to answer this question by exploring the current literature on people’s intentions to change behaviour, their actual reproductive behaviour, and the different psychological effects of tailored vs untailored education. While many studies confirm that education boosts knowledge, the evidence on intentions appears to be inconsistent, with few studies on behaviours available.

Karin Hammarberg will offer insights into people’s response to public health messages about fertility, and the impact of educational initiatives. This will be followed by a presentation by Bola Grace, who will summarise her work on fertility-related information. She will highlight the importance of the right message for the right audience and how to tailor information to for people at different stages of their reproductive lifespan.

The final session of this Campus will be devoted to educating the professionals. Clinicians are regarded as the most trusted sources of fertility information. However, research indicates that they require better training. The ability of a country to meet health goals depends largely on the knowledge, skills and motivation of the people delivering health services. Hence, it is imperative to address any concerns.

Clinicians who are unclear or need reassurance will directly benefit from the information that will be provided in this part of the workshop. They will learn how best to educate patients to protect their fertility and to optimise health prior to attempting conception.

Mara Simopoulou will present evidence from studies that have assessed health professionals’ fertility-related knowledge, including medical students. Karin Hammarberg will outline initiatives to educate health professionals and whether these could improve their ability to start conversations about fertility, reproductive life planning and preconception health.

Without more action to raise awareness, involuntary childlessness will become inevitable, which in the long term will have major consequences for societies globally. This upcoming Campus hopes to play a crucial role in advancing the debate on what needs to be done to address this potential crisis.

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