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Dita De Boni: A teen's lesson on infertility

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Kate Brian believes teens should be taught a wider concept of 'family planning' which considers all possibilities, including future infertility. Photo / Thinkstock
Kate Brian believes teens should be taught a wider concept of 'family planning' which considers all possibilities, including future infertility. Photo / Thinkstock

A columnist in the UK's Guardian newspaper has this week bemoaned the fact that high schoolers are taught how to avoid pregnancy, but nothing about infertility, which the statistics suggest will be a far more common problem for many of them.

Kate Brian raises the intriguing point that while teen pregnancy figures are at their lowest for 50+ years in the UK and Wales, one in five current teenagers will experience an inability to either get pregnant or father children in their future.

Her point is that teenagers should be taught a wider concept of 'family planning' within the sex education syllabus, including future infertility, and specifically how lifestyle choices like excessive drinking, drug use and obesity can cause fertility problems down the line.

For those of us particularly concerned about the detrimental effects of teen pregnancy on society at large, Kate Brian's message seems at first glance to make no sense. Young people don't often suffer from infertility, but they do sometimes suffer from a lack of knowledge about how to prevent pregnancy, or more specifically, sexually transmitted diseases.

There's also the issue of overpopulation.

However, one thing that perhaps is missing from a more scientific view of sex education is a little bit of context around family planning. Should it be explained to school students, particularly girls, that some thought about when you'd like to have a family could be part of your vision of the future?

Unlike people like myself, who went along assuming a family would 'just happen' at some point and that my amazing career would continue unabated through multiple pregnancies without too much trouble, young girls these days have a chance to take on board a different message: that with clever planning and realistic expectations, you can make better choices. A real view about how much work and sacrifice is involved in pregnancy, birth and raising children might just be more of a service to a future generation than just the birds and the bees.

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