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According to Attain Fertility Centers,  findings from a Fertility Patient Survey they conducted show that nearly 30% of fertility patients waited 2 or more years before seeing a fertility specialist, which for many is too long. The clinical definition of infertility is a person under the age of 35 who has been trying, unsuccessfully, to get pregnant for more than 12 months; or a person  35 or older who has been trying, unsuccessfully, to get pregnant for more than 6 months.

The survey, conducted in summer of 2010, chronicles fertility patients’ decision-making process, including when they realize they may have a fertility problem, what criteria they use to select and evaluate fertility clinics, how they search for information and how they pay for treatment. Nearly 7,200 fertility patients participated in the survey, making it the most comprehensive study of its kind.

“What the study shows us is the tremendous need for fertility education,” says Maureen Gill Higgins, RN and Director of Clinical Operations at Attain Fertility Centers. “A significant percentage of patients are waiting too long to see a specialist. We don’t want anyone to wait two years or more. The sooner a fertility specialist finds and addresses any problems, the faster a patient can move along the path to becoming a parent. It’s all about early intervention.”

Other noteworthy insights from the survey include the fact that nearly two-thirds of the fertility patients self-diagnosed their fertility issues while only about one-third were diagnosed by a healthcare professional. And of those surveyed who did not go through fertility treatment, two-thirds cited their decision not to seek treatment was based on an assumption that the cost of fertility treatment would be prohibitive.

The findings of the Fertility Patient Survey clearly indicate the strong need for clear and accessible fertility information, including when to seek help and the financial impact of treatment options.

Jamie Grifo, program director of the New York University Fertility Center, states “Don’t wait too long. Many women don’t realize that their peak fertility time is in their mid-20s and already starting to fall by their late 20s,” Infertility rates about double for women between the early 30s and early 40s. The percentage of married, 25-to-29-year-old women who are infertile is 9 percent, according to ASRM data. By 35 to 39, the percentage has climbed to 22 percent, and by the early 40s, it has jumped to 29 percent. Moreover, a healthy 30-year-old who’s trying to get pregnant has a 20 percent chance per month. By age 40, her odds are only about 5 percent a month. And yet, approximately 20 percent of women wait until after age 35 to begin their families. Male fertility isn’t timeless, either. After 50, some men may experience a decline in sperm quality—they produce more misshapen cells and fewer that can swim well—which can make fertilization trickier. “Don’t assume fertility is a guarantee,” Grifo says. “It isn’t like they told us in high school. The most important thing you can do is start early.”

In response to these insights, it is vital to launch an educational initiative, such as Reproductive Health Month, so as to reach and inform as many potential parents as possible while encouraging them to be proactive when it comes to their reproductive health.