Individual fertility assessment and counselling in women of reproductive age.Dan Med J. 2016 Oct; 63(10)DM
The overall aim of this thesis was to validate the new concept of the Fertility Assessment and Counselling (FAC) Clinic at Rigshospitalet. The intention was to: explore the prognostic value of fertility risk factors by a risk score and provide an estimate of female fecundity, to quantify the impact of oral contraception (OC) on ovarian reserve parameters defined as Anti Müllerian Hormone (AMH), Antral Follicle Count (AFC) and ovarian volume, and to gain knowledge of attitudes and considerations toward family formation in women of advanced age. The thesis is based on the following four manuscripts: Manuscript I describes the predictive value of individual fertility assessment and counselling in terms of subsequent time to pregnancy within two years after the initial consultation at the FAC Clinic. The follow up study comprised 519 women, of which 352 had tried to conceive. At the time of follow-up, 259/352 had achieved a pregnancy, 74/352 were still trying and 19/352 had given up. The remaining 167 women had no attempts to conceive. The risk assessment provided a score based on the appearance of fertility risk factors: green (low), yellow (low), orange (medium) and red (high). Two-thirds of the women with only low risk scores conceived spontaneously within 12 months (65%), while this figure was only 32% for women with at least one high risk score (n=82). Accordingly, presence of at least one high risk score reduced the odds of achieving a pregnancy within 12 months by 73% (OR 0.27, 95%CI 0.13-0.57). The FAC Clinic concept seems as a usable tool for fertility experts to guide women on how to fulfil their reproductive life-plan, but longer follow-up studies are needed. Manuscript II describes the impact of OC on ovarian reserve parameters in 887 women at the FAC Clinic. Of the 887 women, 244 (27.5%) used OC. The 244 users of OC were significantly younger than non-users with a mean age of 31.5 (SD 4.3) vs. 34.1 (SD 4.3) years (p < 0.001). Overall, there was no difference between the two groups in relation to bodyweight, BMI, smoking habits, gestational age at birth, prenatal exposure to maternal smoking or maternal age at menopause. In linear regression analyses adjusted for age, ovarian volume was 50% lower, AMH was 19% lower, and AFC was 18% lower in OC-users compared to non-users. Among the OC users there was a significant decrease in antral follicles sized 5-7 and 8-10 mm and an increase in the number of small follicles sized 2-4 mm. Physicians have to be aware of the impact of OC use on ovarian reserve parameters and possible concealment of premature ovarian insufficiency, when assessing the fertility status and estimating the reproductive lifespan in OC users. Manuscript III describes the family intentions and personal considerations on postponing childbearing in 340 childless women of advanced age. The study comprised 140 cohabiting and 200 single women aged 35-43 seeking fertility assessment and counselling at the FAC Clinic. The majority (82%) was well-educated and in employment. Despite their mean age of 37.4 years, the main reasons for attending the FAC Clinic were to gain knowledge on the possibility of postponing pregnancy (63%) and due to a concern about their fecundity (52%). Both the cohabiting and single women expressed a wish for two or more children (60%). The most important benefits were "personal development" (89%) and "to give and receive love" (86%). The main concerns about childbearing were "less time to myself" (82%) and "less time to job and career" (76%). The single women were more positive regarding the use of donor sperm (70%) compared to the cohabiting women (25%). Our results indicated a general overestimation of the women´s own reproductive capacity and an underestimation of their risk of future infertility and childlessness with continuous postponement of pregnancies. Manuscript IV describes attitudes toward family formation in ten single and ten cohabiting childless women of advanced age. The women were interviewed one week before their consultation at the FAC Clinic about their family formation intentions, considerations and concerns. The interviews were analysed and condensed into four categories: ''The biological clock'', ''The difficult choice'', ''The dream of the nuclear family'', and ''Mother without a father''. The categories were condensed into two subthemes; `Fear´ and `Expectations´ and gathered into one main theme 'The conflict of choosing', which reflected the women's attitudes toward family formation prior to individual fertility counselling. The women attended the FAC Clinic due to a concern about their fecundity and a fear for infertility. Overall, the women expressed a dream of the nuclear family and finding "Mr. Right" and many with the wish of buying more time. Both groups would consider solo motherhood due to their advanced age, although it was considered to be Plan B, as it was not "natural".