Parents should start kids young when it comes to sex and fertility education and initiate the big talk before their children reach primary school age. This is to avoid future risks of early parenthood, experts said.
The child could be as young as age 3, according to some leading fertility experts in the United Kingdom attending the Fertility Health summit of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. They pushed for a German or Swedish style of parenting, applied at an early age and employing gaming and social media to engage children on the matter.
Summit organizer and British Fertility Society (BFS) chair Adam Balen said people should “look at 3- and 4-year-olds being introduced to ideas about where babies come from.”
“We need to start at primary school … maybe even younger,” echoed Professor Joyce Harper from University College Hospital London, citing her two sons as an example. “Yes, kids are going to ask about their anatomy.”
A new survey conducted in time for the summit found that many people ages 16 to 24 have worrisome gaps in their understanding of reproductive health and fertility. While fertility rates for both men and women gradually dropped from one’s late 20s because of several factors, four in five of those polled thought a woman’s fertility only began declining after age 35.
The study, too, found that much of the surveyed young adults obtained their knowledge on fertility from the Internet, social media and friends and family.
In recent years, the age when women have their first child has slowly increased, with the BFS highlighting how female fertility starts to decline from the late 20s as the number of eggs that women naturally have are progressively lost over time.
Sex education also tends to be strongly focused on how to avoid pregnancy.
“[I]t has frequently presented a very negative image of childbearing … and some, to their cost, are leaving it too late,” warned Norman Wells from the Family Education Trust.
For Balen, women are delaying pregnancy partly because they are hit hard by social pressure: seeking a career, being economically disadvantaged, or suffering a lack of commitment from men.
In the United States, the average age of first-time mothers are also steadily increasing – climbing 1.4 years from 2000 to 2014 or from 24.9 to 26.3 years old, according to a recent CDC report.
Harper highlighted the role of YouTube and social media in teaching kids online about the matter. The trouble, she added, is that “really bad information” exists on these channels and other digital forums, making it crucial to counter them with good information.
Photo: Farhad Sadykov | Flickr