What Do Healthy Women Know About the Consequences of Delayed Childbearing?
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AbstractFemale fertility declines dramatically with age, and childbearing at older maternal ages has significant medical consequences for mother and infant that are well-known to health professionals. Despite this, the average maternal age in the United States continues to rise. Many factors likely contribute to this secular trend; to date, no research has examined whether American women are aware of the complications of deferring conception and how this correlates with health literacy. The purpose of this study was to evaluate women's knowledge of the implications of delaying pregnancy. A structured, in-person interview was administered to 300 women between 20 and 50 years of age attending 1 of 2 gynecologic clinics at a single institution. Demographic information, medical history, and gynecologic history were obtained; and participants answered questions about the implications of aging for fertility and pregnancy outcome. Health literacy and numeracy were assessed. Participants demonstrated knowledge deficits about the implications of aging on fertility and pregnancy, and many were unfamiliar with success rates of infertility treatments. Several demographic factors correlated with knowledge; health literacy and numeracy were both important predictive variables. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first study of women's knowledge about fertility, aging, and their health literacy. Awareness of the importance of health literacy and numeracy should inform future educational efforts about fertility.