Australians will find it much harder to have children than they expect, according to the results of a new report by the Fertility Society of Australia (FSA). A survey of 2,400 people revealed that 88 per cent of men and 57 per cent of women between the ages of 30 and 39 believe they will have no problems conceiving. And just two per cent thought that male infertility was ever a reason for couples to seek IVF treatment, while none believed that a man's age could influence his fertility.
Anne Clark, who runs the fertility preservation project for the FSA, says that while there was misunderstanding about the effects of age on a woman's fertility, there was even more misunderstanding about its effects on a man. Dr Clark presented the results of the National Fertility Study to a group of politicians who are promoting the need for a national fertility policy. The group's co-ordinator, Liberal MP Mal Washer, said that ignorance about fertility was 'a national disaster', adding that the survey proved the need for an educational campaign on the effects on fertility of age, smoking and other factors such as obesity.
Just 27 per cent of Australian women have their first child before the age of 30, compared to 92 per cent 30 years ago. Dr Clark said that contrary to popular belief, later childbearing was not down to women pursuing careers, but to their desire for a stable relationship and financial security. The women who took part in the survey rated their career 13th out of 14 factors that would influence their decision to have children, while one in three women in their thirties had no children because they had no partner. Dr Clark said that any fertility education campaign should also encourage couples in their thirties to seek help if they were unable to conceive after 6-12 months of trying. More than 80 per cent of men in their 40s surveyed thought they would be able to have a child without problems, as did 43 per cent of women in the same age range. But, said Dr Clark, when it comes to problems conceiving 'the amber light comes on for women at 35 and for men at 40'.