Individual fertility assessment and pro-fertility counselling; should this be offered to women and men of reproductive age?Hum Reprod. 2015 Jan; 30(1):9-15.HR
During the 1970s new contraceptive options developed and legal abortions became accessible. Family planning clinics targeting young women and men provided advice and assistance on contraception. Today, delayed childbearing, low total fertility rates and increasing use of social oocyte freezing create a need for pro-fertility initiatives. Three years ago we established a new separate unit: The Fertility Assessment and Counselling (FAC) clinic. The FAC clinic offers free individual counselling based on a clinical assessment including measurement of serum anti-Müllerian hormone and ovarian and pelvic sonography in women, sperm analysis in men, and a review of reproductive risk factors in both sexes. The FAC clinic includes a research programme with the goal to improve prediction and protection of fertility. Our first proposition is that clinics for individual assessment and counselling need to be established, as there is a strong unmet demand among women and men to obtain: (i) knowledge of fertility status, (ii) knowledge of reproductive lifespan (women) and (iii) pro-fertility advice. Addressing these issues is often more challenging than treating infertile patients. Therefore, we propose that fertility assessment and counselling should be developed by specialists in reproductive medicine. There are two main areas of concern: As our current knowledge on reproductive risk factors is primarily based on data from infertile patients, the first concern is how precisely we are able to forecast future reproductive problems. Predictive parameters from infertile couples, such as duration of infertility, are not applicable, diagnostic factors like tubal patency are unavailable and other parameters may be unsuitable when applied to the general population. Therefore, strict validation of reproductive forecasting in women and men from the general population is crucial. The second main concern is that we may turn clients into patients. Screening including reproductive forecasting may induce unnecessary anxiety through false positive predictions and may even result in overtreatment in contrast to the intended preventive concept. False negative findings may create false reassurance and result in postponement of conceptions.