Merton teens to be taught about ticking biological clocks in fertility classes

Merton teens will have lessons about their biological clocks, the impact of delaying parenthood and factors that could affect sperm and egg quality during fertility classes.

Fertility expert at Merton charity Create Health Foundation Professor Geeta Nargund is championing the pilot scheme which aims to shift the focus from contraception to conception.

Girls will learn about the deterioration in female fertility after 30, the impact of STIs, weight, smoking, alcohol, thyroid function and egg quality on your chances on conceiving.

Boys will be taught about the effect alcohol and smoking could have on sperm quality and count.

Professor Nargund explained the importance of placing the emphasis on conception especially as the UK birth rate is relatively low, and highlighted that the Replacement Birth Rate has been largely sustained by immigrant mums.

She wrote: “Reliance on immigration is not the long term solution. We need to prevent infertility through education.

“I have yet to see the question of fertility education being addressed.

“This is surely the reason why I meet so many apparently intelligent, successful career women who are taken aback when they are informed that…their ovarian reserve is critically low.

“For some reason they think the pill will protect them from the age-related decline in egg reserve.”

She also highlighted the rise of career women who delay motherhood until later in life.

She said: “It’s time we shifted the paradigm from contraception to conception.

“Education has been proven to be effective; we have seen a reduction in teenage pregnancies.

“We must give young people the opportunity to protect their fertility. Empowering them with knowledge is the right thing to do.”

Some have criticised the scheme, claiming it risks delivering an inappropriate message to young people about starting a family earlier.

British Pregnancy Advice Service spokeswoman Clare Murphy said: “There’s no doubt this is a well-intentioned scheme but I think it will create more problems than it solves.

“It is not the case that a generation of young women are growing up in ignorance about the fact that fertility declines with age – there are warnings about women leaving it too late wherever you look.

“Young people are under a lot of pressure as it is – adding to their worries about their biological clock going forward is unlikely to help.”

Professor Nargund argued that views like this are ‘very short-sighted’ and that the scheme is designed to remove fear and anxiety, rather than create it.

“We cannot turn back the biological clock”, she said.“I promote women’s rights and individual choices. Every decision should be an informed decision.

“Young people will be grateful to be informed. To have a 90% chance of conceiving one child, a woman should begin trying to get pregnant by 35.

“To have a 90% chance of conceiving two children, she should start by 31.

“Infertility is classified by the World Health Organisation as a disease. We must teach young people ‘these are the implications if you leave it later’.

“We must also help people avoid expensive treatments and give them the knowledge to fall pregnant naturally.

“The focus is on a rounded education and promoting informed choices.”

Professor Nargund wrote to Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan in June this year lobbying for fertility lessons, funded by the Department for Education, to be a compulsory part of the National Curriculum.

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