Fertility Education Initiative
The Fertility Education Initiative is a programme of work dedicated to improving knowledge of fertility and reproductive health in the UK.
It was set up in response to a growing debate and concern amongst health and education professionals, about the lack of knowledge about age related decline in fertility in the UK.
In April 2016 a national conference was held at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) to discuss this issue, with over 200 senior figures from health, education and government.
The Fertility Education Initiative is a special interest group of the British Fertility Society, in partnership with the RCOG and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health (FSRH), Sex Education Forum, Brook, Sexpression, Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange, Infertility Network UK, British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Marie Stopes and Public Health England. It is chaired by Professor Adam Balen, also chair of the BFS and the deputy Chair is Professor Joyce Harper, University College London.
Fertility Education Initiative Taskforce
The Fertility Education Initiative is led by a taskforce of senior professionals from health, education, government and business who have been brought together for the first time, to improve knowledge of fertility and reproductive health.
- Professor Adam Balen, Chair British Fertility Society (Chair, FEI)
- Professor Joyce Harper, Deputy Chair, Professor of Embryology, IVF & Reproductive Genetics, UCL Institute for Women’s Health (Deputy Chair, FEI)
- Annette Ashley, Manager of Policy & Public Affairs, RCOG
- Professor Jacky Boivin, Professor of Health Psychology, Cardiff
- Kate Brian, Regional Organiser, Fertility Network UK
- Naomi Courtenay-Luck, Media and Public Relations, RCOG
- Jennifer Dhingra, Externals Director, Sexpression
- Andrea Duncan, Team leader Screening and Sexual Health, Dept of Health
- Dr James Duffy, O&G Trainee, Oxford
- Genevieve Edward, Marie Stopes
- Lucy Emmerson, Coordinator, Sex Education Forum
- Emma Gilgunn-Jones, Director of Media and Public, RCOG
- Bola Grace, PhD Researcher, UCL Institute for Women’s Health
- Dr Kate Guthrie, Sexual & Reproductive Health, Public Health England
- Alison Hadley, Director, Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange
- Liz Hawkes, Programme Manager, FEI and Director, Doctor Profile
- Joe Hayman, Chief Executive, PHSE Association
- Dr Jenny Heathcote, Fellow, Faculty for Sexual and Reproductive Health
- Kim Helm, event department, RCOG
- Jessica Hepburn, Director of Fertility Fest
- Lesley Hoggart, Senior Lecturer, Public Health and Head of Reproduction, Sexualities and Health Research
- Fiona Kisby-Littleton, Teacher and Researcher, UCL Institute of Education
- Professor Lesley Regan, Vice President Strategic Affairs, RCOG
- Kevin McEleny, Training and Education Chair,British Fertility Society
- Clare Murphy, Director of External Affairs, British Pregnancy Advisory Service
- Professor Geeta Narguund, Medical Director of Create Fertility
- Sarah Norcross, Director, Progress Educational Trust
- Helen O’Neill, Scientist, Embryology, IVF and Reproductive Genetics Group
- Michael Reiss, Academic, UCL
- Naomi Shephard, Head of Participation and Volunteering, Brook
- Professor Judith Stephenson, Professor in Sexual and Reproductive Health, UCL Institute for Women’s Health
- Dr Jane Stewart, Hon Secretary, British Fertility Society
- Harry Walker, Policy Manager, Faculty for Sexual and Reproductive Health
- Chris Wilkinson, Faculty for Sexual and Reproductive Health
2. Aims & Work
The Fertility Education Initiative is a programme of work with four main aims:
- To support teachers with learning tools so they can provide education in fertility and pregnancy awareness, to young people at all key stages.
- To develop age-appropriate online learning tools for children from all key stages to educate on fertility and pregnancy.
- To provide parents with the tools to support fertility and pregnancy awareness for their children.
- To ensure that sex and fertility education is a statutory inclusion in the national curriculum, so that all young people will be able to make informed choices about if and when they want to start a family.
The Fertility Education Initiative is focused on delivering education in the following areas:
- Changes in the body at puberty
- The female menstrual cycle
- How to get pregnant and preconception care
- How to prevent pregnancy; contraception methods, advantages and disadvantages, where to seek advice
- Factors influencing fertility; age, drugs, obesity
- STI’s; prevention, symptoms, where to seek advice
- Sign-posting to resources for teachers, parents and young people.
3. Fertility Awareness
Key facts about fertility
To put the Fertility Education Initiative programme in context, here is some national UK data:
- More women in the UK are now having children over the age of 35 than under the age of 25.
- For the first time, over 50% of babies born in the UK are to women over 30.
- Fertility declines progressively through life and many women are choosing to delay trying for a family until their mid- to late thirties, when fertility is more rapidly declining.
- In the UK 20% of women will never have had a child, which is twice the percentage of their mothers’ generation. There are many complex socio and economic reasons for this.
- A national survey of 1000 16-24 year olds (male and female) was commissioned specifically for the Fertility Education Initiative Task Force. The key findings showed worrying gaps in knowledge about fertility and reproductive health:
- Around 80% of both sexes believe women’s fertility only starts to decline after the age of 35, and a quarter of boys think women’s fertility starts to decline after the age of 40, compared with 16% of girls.
- Two-thirds of those surveyed thought a man’s fertility only starts declining after the age of 40, with a third believing it declined until after 50.
While the decline in fertility is less dramatic for men, fertility rates for both sexes actually decline gradually from the late 20s, and can be affected by genetic and environmental factors such as smoking, obesity and nutrition.
- 94% of those who did not already have them said they would like to have children in the future.
- Of those who said they wanted children in the future, three-quarters of girls (76%) and two-thirds of boys (64%) said they would like to have children before they are 30.
- The vast majority of young people – around 9 in 10 – are aware that women are most fertile under the age of 30
- Encouragingly, 80% of girls and two-thirds of boys (66%) are aware that age is the number one factor which affects female fertility
- Girls tend to consider that a higher number of factors affect their fertility than boys
- Two-thirds of girls are now aware that being overweight or underweight affects fertility
- 40% of girls mistakenly believe that having a miscarriage or being on the contraceptive pill for too long can adversely affect fertility
- Substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, steroids) is perceived to be the main factor affecting male fertility – this does affect fertility but age remains the most common factor
- Around 50% of young people did not recall seeing, hearing or talking about fertility in the past year
4. Fertility Summit 2016
In April 2016 the Fertility Health Summit: Choice Not Chance was held at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London. The primary aim of this event was to raise national awareness about the need to improve education about fertility and reproductive health for young people in the UK.
The event included 13 high-level presentations by leading UK and overseas professionals in the field of education, health, government, as well as a representative group of young people. It was the first time such a group has come together to discuss this important subject and we are really grateful to everyone for their contributions on the day.
The Fertility Health Summit received some pre-conference media coverage in the Daily Mail which outlined the main messages and was a useful teaser story for the Summit itself. On the day of the Summit the media focused on the findings of the survey of young people which had been commissioned and provided a news hook.
Following the Summit, much of the media coverage focussed on the TV presenter, Alex Jones, speaking at the Summit. Her personal opinions on her own fertility and awareness attracted much attention.
- 15 national print articles were published including the Guardian, Daily Mail, Sun and Closer magazine
- 450 regional articles covering all aspects were published, a Sky radio interview was used throughout the day
- Hundreds of tweets went out and the event was ‘trending’ on twitter with infographics showing the survey results being the most popular ‘retweet’
- There were 27,000 impressions (how many times the Summit featured in other organisations’ feeds)
- 18 million adults were reached with messages with a measure of £350k in advertising revenue
There have been follow up stories since the Summit focusing on women’s worries about their fertility and when is the best age to start a family.
The Fertility Education Initiative Task force is led by the British Fertility Society in partnership with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health Together with The Sex Education Forum, Brook, Sexpression, Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange, Fertility Network UK, British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Marie Stopes and Public Health England.
Additional funding has also been given by the following companies:
We are very grateful to these organisations for their continued support.
Are you able to help?
If your company is interested in becoming a partner organisation to the Fertility Education Initiative Task Force, please do contact Yvonne Liversidge at the British Fertility Society here.
Yvonne Liversidge BFS Secretariat Profile Productions Email: email@example.com Tel: +44(0)20 3725 5849
We would be delighted to hear from any business who is able to help support the programme, through sponsorship or other resources, such as distribution, online marketing, print and distribution.
We are also keen to hear from anyone working in fertility education and reproductive health who is able to share ideas, case studies or other information that might be useful to the programme. Please use the contact details above and we will ensure it is sent to the right person.
For further information about the Fertility Education Initiative please contact:
Yvonne Liversidge BFS Secretariat Profile Productions Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +44 (0)20 3725 5849