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Knowledge is (reproductive) power: A call for fertility education in medical school

1 Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
2 Indiana University School of Medicine-West Lafayette, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA
3 Indiana University School of Medicine-West Lafayette, Veterinary Administration Department, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA

Correspondence Address:
Claire Marks,
Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, 340 W 10th St, Indianapolis, IN
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/EHP.EHP_26_22

Background: Recent data suggests female physicians can be up to twice as likely to experience infertility compared to the general population. Despite this, fertility and family planning are rarely incorporated into formal medical education. In this study, medical students’ knowledge and perspectives regarding childbearing were investigated along with how fertility-related information could be presented in medical curricula. Materials and Methods: An anonymous, online questionnaire was designed for this study, comprised of multiple choice, open ended, and Likert questions. Respondents were recruited from medical students in all phases of training at a large, Midwest medical school, yielding 184 responses. The survey included sections on knowledge, perspectives, curriculum, and demographics. Results: The average score on fertility knowledge was 70%. Most respondents were interested in having biological children (76% agreed/strongly agreed). Students worried about having children during medical education (71% agreed/strongly agreed). About 40% of respondents disagreed/strongly disagreed that their institution would support their decisions regarding family building. Respondents indicated benefits of delayed childbearing are financial stability, career establishment, and increased maturity. Nearly 80% of individuals preferred that fertility education be a required component of the medical curriculum. Conclusions: These results suggest many medical students hope to have children and are aware of the logistical challenges associated with childbearing during medical training. However, they may not fully appreciate the impact of biological decline in fertility over time, potentially a factor contributing to increased physician infertility. Further curricular content addressing fertility would be beneficial to undergraduate medical students.

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