Should contraception methods come with warnings not to ‘leave it too late?’ A top fertility doctor, Professor Adam Balen, thinks so. He would like to see warnings akin to those on cigarette packets printed on contraceptive pills and condoms.
As the Fertility Education Initiative chair, Professor Balen has seen an alarming rise in infertility as people leave starting a family until later and later in life. He’s a strong proponent of more education on the matter.
He recently told The Mail on Sunday, ‘with cigarettes, you have health warnings about the adverse effects of smoking. You could have that on contraception, whether it’s a pack of condoms you get from the pub or the contraceptive pill.’
He wants to see more warnings on contraceptives
“inserts or warnings should be there: remember, don’t leave it too late. There are opportunities when women, in particular, going for their smear test or advice about contraception should be pointed to age-appropriate material.’
As female fertility drops dramatically in their late 30s, Professor Balen wants women to start thinking about their reproductive potential earlier, ideally when they’re in their 20s or early 30s. The former chair of the British Fertility Society cautions, ‘If you’re going to freeze eggs and have a viable chance of having a baby in the future, you should probably think about doing it before you get to the age of 37 or 38.’
He’s not alone in his call for more education
Professor Geeta Nargund, of the private IVF service Create Fertility, agrees with his ideas. She suggests that contraception packets could include graphs showing the ways that fertility declines with age.
According to Professor Nargund, illustrations are more effective than written warnings. For example, she says, ‘people are more likely to look at a graph on the side of a packet than read the small print.’
Prof Nargund and Prof Balen have both released their comments just days after recent news that the Government will extend egg and sperm freezing limits from 10 years to 55 years. Ministers are also debating a similar extension on embryo freezing beyond 10 years, which is the current maximum without specific medical reasons.
While supporters of the new extension are optimistic that it will help people make critical family planning decisions, others are less supportive
They say that freezing eggs does not guarantee a child, and delaying pregnancy is always a risk. However, Professor Balen is a fan of the extensions, stating that they could provide ‘equity in legislation for those who want to freeze for social reasons.’
That said, he cautions people from relying too heavily on freezing their sperm and eggs. ‘Young people shouldn’t be relying on technology to help preserve their fertility for the future… The freezing of eggs isn’t a guarantee they will have a baby. People shouldn’t leave it too late or be lulled into a false sense of security.’
What do you think about Professor Balen’s call for warnings on contraceptive packets? Would that warning have helped you make different choices about fertility, or would you feel patronised? We would love to hear from you at email@example.com or on social @ivfbabble