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‘We aren’t talking about it enough’- research reveals gap in fertility education

One in seven women who have not faced fertility issues before reported that they had never talked about fertility with their doctors

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New research has found a gap in fertility education in the US, including the basics of reproductive health, a lack of conversation between women and their healthcare providers and misunderstandings around advanced maternal age.

The survey, which looked at 2,000 American women aged 18 to 40, revealed that 70 per cent of participants who have not faced fertility issues before, reported that they had never had a conversation with their primary care doctors, obstetricians or gynaecologists about their fertility.

It found that reproductive health topics that had been discussed with doctors by the full group of those surveyed included birth control pills (46 per cent), vaginal health (39 per cent) and how menstrual cycles work (33 per cent).

This was compared to topics on fertility health that have been discussed, like IVF treatment (five per cent) and IUI treatments (four per cent).

The survey, conducted by Talker Research on behalf of The Prelude Network fertility clinics, showed that 55 per cent of respondents believed they knew enough about sexual intercourse to make decisions about their reproductive future, with a remaining 45 per cent who didn’t feel the same.

However, it found that women felt even less confident about their knowledge of sexually transmitted diseases (28 per cent) or fertility-related topics, such as IVF (six per cent), egg freezing (five per cent) and sperm donor treatment (three per cent).

Lindsey Rabaut, chief marketing officer at Inception Fertility, the parent company of The Prelude Network, said: “The data shows that we as a society aren’t talking enough about female fertility health, and without those conversations, women don’t have the information they need to make empowered, educated decisions about their family building options.

“The great news is that there are opportunities to fill in this information gap. It starts with raising awareness about how fertility works and driving home the message that fertility health is women’s health.

“I wish I had been told more when I was 29 and just starting my career.”

Between female and male bodies, respondents were asked which one they think is the most frequent cause of fertility-related issues.

Results showed that 31 per cent of respondents believe a woman’s body is the cause of these issues compared to just four per cent who said male.

The findings showed that 53 per cent of American women mistakenly believe that the “advanced maternal age” starts before 35 years old, and 41 per cent felt pressure to have children before this age.

Sixty percent of respondents also think of their biological clock as a countdown to when they can no longer conceive a child and 28 per cent expressed “always” or “often” feeling anxious when thinking about their biological clock.

This has left many feeling regretful, as 32 per cent of millennial women wish that they had planned to conceive a child sooner.

As a result, nearly a quarter of women surveyed (24 per cent) feel that it is too late, believing at this point in their life, they are not able to have a child.

The research suggested that women are also worried about potentially facing fertility issues in the future (38 per cent), with four in 10 women (41 per cent) under age 35 expressing worry about this.

Alice Domar, chief compassion officer at Inception Fertility and director of the Inception Research Institute, said: “A clear takeaway from this survey is that women express anxiety about their future fertility, but we can lessen this distress and do a better job of supporting them in their fertility journeys through education.

“By understanding their reproductive health and the family building options that are available today, women can be more proactive in safeguarding their fertility health and increasing their odds of an easy conception and uneventful pregnancy.”

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‘Groundbreaking’ endometriosis study identifies patient priorities

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A “groundbreaking” study into endometriosis has identified three areas for future research that can help improve the outcomes for women with the condition.

The study, commissioned by Endometriosis New Zealand, attracted 1,262 participants, including 1,024 people with confirmed endometriosis, making it the largest ever study involving endometriosis patients and supporters in New Zealand.

Study participants identified the management and treatment of endometriosis, the need for a better understanding of its cause and improvements to diagnostic capability as the three main priorities for further research.

While these findings provide a clear pathway for future work, Endometriosis New Zealand chief executive, Tanya Cooke, said endometriosis research had historically been underfunded.

“With an estimated 120,000 New Zealanders living with endometriosis, much more needs to be invested into finding solutions,” Cooke explained.

“The reality is the outcomes for many endometriosis patients are pretty poor, with diagnosis often taking many years and treatment patchy across the country.”

Estimates based on Australian data suggest that endometriosis is likely to be costing New Zealand somewhere in the range of $1.3-1.5bn annually through increased healthcare costs and lost workforce productivity.

Cooke said: “The good news is that our findings align closely with those in Australia and provide three clear priorities for future research – improved treatment options, causation and better diagnostic capability.

“What New Zealand now requires is proper funding for a future research programme that can investigate these priorities more closely and improve the outcomes for individuals living with endometriosis.”

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Virtual care platform secures US$46m to address US maternal health crisis

Pomelo Care will use the funding to scale its care model and improve maternal and infant outcomes

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Marta Bralic Kerns, founder and CEO of Pomelo Care

The US virtual maternity care platform Pomelo Care has secured US$46m in funding to address the US maternal health crisis.

One in 10 babies born in the US today start their life in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Healthcare access continues to worsen, with one in eight births occurring in US counties with limited-to-no access to maternal care. Due to significant gaps in postpartum care, about half of pregnancy-related deaths in the US occur after hospital discharge.

The evidence exists for how to identify people at highest risk for complications and which interventions are most effective, but existing data gaps and provider capacity challenges make it difficult to apply these interventions at scale.

Pomelo has developed a care model that aims to address these challenges by analysing claims and health record data to identify individual risk factors and providing virtual pregnancy, postpartum, and infant care to patients to reduce those risks.

“We’ve long known what works to reduce maternal and infant complications,” said Marta Bralic Kerns, founder and CEO of Pomelo Care.

“The questions have always been: can you identify the patients who are at highest risk, can you deeply engage them in care to drive uptake of the prevention strategies we know work, and can you do it in the highest risk populations with the most limited access to care?”

“This data demonstrates that we absolutely can. And with this additional funding, we’ll have the opportunity to scale our care model to more pregnant people across the country.”

The funding, led by existing investors First Round Capital and Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) Bio + Health, is hoped to help Pomelo accelerate its partnerships with payors across the US and increase access to “evidence-based” care.

Josh Kopelman, partner at First Round Capital and Pomelo board member, said: “It’s rare to come across an opportunity where the incentives between patient, provider and payor are all aligned.

“Marta and the Pomelo team have found an incredible opportunity to dramatically improve outcomes for the highest risk populations, while helping payors reduce their avoidable costs.”

Vineeta Agarwala, general partner at a16z Bio + Health and Pomelo board member, added: “Pomelo is one among a small set of health tech companies that have earned true scale.

“This scale is evident in our partnerships with major Medicaid and commercial plans covering over three million lives, which create the opportunity to collaborate with OB providers, labour and delivery wards, and NICUs nationwide, while serving hundreds of thousands of expecting mothers and newborns with high quality, technology-enabled care.”

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One in three UK fertility patients seek treatment abroad due to high costs

Expensive fertility treatments prompt UK patients to seek help abroad

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One in three fertility patients in the UK seek treatment abroad due to high costs, a new survey has shown.

Fertility Family has gathered insights from 429 UK participants who have experienced difficulties with infertility.

The Infertility Awareness Report found that the high cost of fertility treatment in the UK has driven over one in four people to spend over £10,000 on both treatments and investigative procedures.

The research showed around 35 per cent of people struggling with infertility have considered seeking fertility treatment abroad due to the prospect of lower costs.

Of those seeking fertility treatment in a foreign country, however, only 14 per cent believed that clinics abroad have a higher success rate.

Of those actively trying to conceive almost one in five have used their life savings in the pursuit of having a child, whilst 25 per cent have paid for their fertility treatments using a credit card.

Dr Gill Lockwood, consultant at Fertility Family, said: “While we tend to cast our gaze on women when it comes to infertility, case studies have shown that infertility can impact both women and men in similar ways. However, women have been observed to seek help more than men.

“Although the psychological struggles of infertility can be overwhelming, many patients ultimately reach some type of resolution. Some of the alternatives include becoming parents to a relative’s children, adopting children, or deciding to adopt a child-free lifestyle.

“Needless to say, this resolution is usually psychologically demanding, and patients may feel forever impacted by the experience of infertility.”

A combination of fertility struggles and accessible healthcare have impacted people across the UK significantly, with one in two admitting to feeling “ashamed” due to their difficulties trying to conceive.

A further 31 per cent reported feeling that other people think “less” of them due to their fertility struggles, showcasing the need for better mental health support.

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