A recent survey of women aged 35 to 45 years old revealed that 60 percent of respondents admitted to feeling stigmatised for not having children.
Infertility Network UK, in conjunction with Swiss-based pharmaceutical company, Merck Serono, surveyed 500 women in August and September 2013. Participants of the survey did not have children but indicated they would like to conceive at some point.
Respondents identified their own family and friends as being the leading sources of pressure on women to have children. A third of respondents also reported feeling embarrassed about discussing fertility issues, and a majority said they felt uncomfortable discussing fertility issues with family and friends.
Clare Lewis-Jones, chief executive of Infertility Network UK, said 'feelings of embarrassment and being judged are ultimately preventing some women seeking the help they need for their fertility problems'.
The survey found that some women wait up to two years before seeing a GP about infertility and 19 percent of respondents aged 40 to 45 years old are 'still avoiding seeking fertility advice'. A press release issued by Merck Serono, on which these figures are based, notes that the biggest decrease in fertility begins in women in their mid-thirties. Women who defer childbearing until older age also face several risks (reported in BioNews 714).
In February 2013 NICE updated its fertility guideline to reduce the time eligible couples must attempt to conceive naturally before a clinical fertility assessment from two years to one. The updated guideline also extends the upper age limit from 40 to 42 years old.
Mr Tim Child, medical director at the Oxford Fertility Unit, stated that couples should discuss their fertility with a healthcare professional earlier rather than later.
'Patients should also be aware of the choice they make when they delay trying to conceive and the impact this can have on the chances of natural conception, as well as the treatment they are entitled to under the NHS', he said.
However, the survey also showed women are also often having to waiting longer than the 18 weeks in which the NHS says patients are entitled to start receiving treatment from the date of referral.