Young People May Be Overestimating Risk of Infertility

In Missed Conceptions or Misconceptions: Perceived Infertility Among Unmarried Young Adults In the United States, published in Perspectives on Sexual and Adolescent Health, authors Chelsea Bernhardt Polis and Laurie Schwab Zabin assessed the frequency of perceived infertility among young adults using 2009 data from a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,800 unmarried men and women aged 18–29. The analyses assessed associations between respondents’ perceived infertility and data on respondents’ social and demographic characteristics; variables that might affect their knowledge about fertility, such as having received sex education; and their sexual, contraceptive and pregnancy histories.

The authors found that 19% of women and 13% of men believed that they were very likely to be infertile. Hispanic women and women who had received public assistance in the past year had elevated odds of perceived infertility (odds ratios, 3.4 and 3.0, respectively), as did Hispanic men and men of other racial or ethnic minorities, except blacks (2.5 and 6.1, respectively). Men who had some college education, had received sex education or were not in a current relationship had decreased odds of thinking they were very likely to be infertile (0.3–0.4). Among men, perceived infertility was associated with the belief that they were likely to have sex without using a contraceptive in the next three months (2.6). The authors also noted that 64% of sexually inexperienced Hispanic women reported perceived infertility, compared with 29% of sexually experienced Hispanic women.The authors suggest that public health messages that “focus on the idea that pregnancy can occur after having intercourse a single time without using a contraceptive” present an “oversimplified message” that “may inadvertently lead some individuals to assume they are infertile if pregnancy does not occur after one or several acts of intercourse without a contraceptive.”

Find additional article summary in the Women’s Health Policy Report, published by the National Partnership for Women & Families.

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