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The Other Side of the Age & Fertility Message

By Sonja Kristiansen, MD on February 19, 2010

Just on the heels of a study declaring that 30-year-old women have lost most of their 'good' eggs, comes a report out of the UK that women in their 30's and 40's are winding up "accidentally" pregnant because they thought their chances at pregnancy were up.

The claims being made by the British Family Planning Association (FPA) are that messages about women's age and fertility are "overplayed" and leading to something like reverse anxiety. The organization, with a mission of enabling informed sexual health choices, is heading up a new public information campaign to remind women that unless they're willing to get pregnant without trying, contraceptives should be used until after menopause.

One of the messages in the FPA campaign: "Fertility. You'd be surprised how long it takes to disappear."

Menopause is defined as not having a period for at least a year. Perimenopause is what we call the years leading up to that final menstrual period. Perimenopause can last from a couple of years to more than five, and some women are fertile throughout that time.

I'm in agreement that women should remain vigilant about their chances for pregnancy until they are clearly no longer fertile. However, to imply that the messages being sent (about women's age and the natural decrease in fertility) are anything other than appropriate is itself an overstatement.

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