Chair of the FEI, Professor Adam Balen said “I am delighted that our desire to enhance education on reproductive health has been adopted. 

“We have recently released an educational animation and are developing a series of animations and educational tools to aid teachers in delivering this vital information to young people.”

Professor Joyce Harper, Deputy Chair and co-founder of the FEI said “This is absolutely amazing news. Young people are leading different lives to their parents and the delay in starting a family increases every year.

“We need to be sure that young people are aware of their fertility and how to prepare to have a healthy family.  We want to be sure that those who want a family can have a family.” 

The FEI is developing age appropriate educational material, some of which is already available on the BFS website (https://www.britishfertilitysociety.org.uk/fei/), which can help in implantation of the new guidelines.

A series of animations covers all aspects of reproductive health, modern ways of forming families and routes to parenthood for heterosexual, LGBTQ+ and single people with and without fertility issues, so that young people are empowered with the knowledge to make the decisions about how and when to start a family.

The first animation in the FEI series was released in January 2019 (https://youtu.be/ETwDCKBaYd4and is jointly funded by a grant from Cardiff University.

BFS and FEI committee member, Professor Jacky Boivin said “We are delighted that Cardiff University has agreed to wholly fund our second animation. Watch this space!”

And we have our second Fertility Education Initiative paper coming out soon in the journal Human Fertility: Feasibility and acceptability of theatrical and visual art to deliver fertility education to young adults, Harper et al.

Why the need for a Fertility Education Initiative (FEI)?

The need for fertility education arises from changing patterns of family formation over the last decade (including modern families and starting families at an older age).  Young people feel unprepared for how best to plan career and family, and of fertility problems later in their life.  In research, adolescents (16-18 years) show these age-groups do not know much, would like to know more but need for the information to be conveyed in a way that is engaging and helps young people integrate it at their current life stage.  

  • Female fertility starts to decline gradually from the late 20s as the number of eggs a women is born with are lost progressively over time the further away they are from starting their first period.
  • Female fertility starts to decline more rapidly from the mid-30s onwards.
  • Approximately 15% of the population (1 in 6 adults) experience fertility problems.
  • A steadily rising proportion of women in the UK have never had a child (20% compared with 10% just one generation ago).
  • The average age of first time mothers is rising – being over 30 years now  – a figure that has been increasing steadily from 24.0 years in 1971.
  • The number of births (fertility rates) among 20 to 24 and 25 to 29 year olds are falling.

Who is The FEI?

The Fertility Education Initiative (FEI) is a group of senior professionals from health, education and government who want to improve people’s knowledge of fertility and reproductive health in the UK. The FEI is led by Professor Adam Balen, a consultant in reproductive medicine in Leeds and recent past-chair of the British Fertility Society and co-chaired by Professor Joyce Harper (Institute for Women’s Health, University College London) and Professor Jacky Boivin (School of Psychology, Cardiff University). The FEI is a special interest group of the British Fertility Society and partners include the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), Sex Education Forum, Brook, Sexpression, Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange, Fertility Network UK, Fertility Fest and Public Health England. 

Vision and Aims of The FEI?

Our vision is to ensure that people have a greater understanding and awareness about fertility and reproductive health, so they can make an informed choice about their own fertility journey, or that of others they may have an impact on. Our three key aims are:

Understanding human fertility:

  1. human reproduction
  2. male and female reproductive health
  • reproductive life cycle (puberty to menopause)
  • fertility and infertility
  • signs, symptoms and preventable causes of fertility issues
  • planning for a healthy pregnancy

Understanding modern families

  1. Societal and cultural variations in family building
  2. Routes to parenthood
  • For heterosexual, LGBTQ+ and single people with and without fertility issues
  • Assisted conception techniques for family building
  • Other routes to parenthood (such as adoption, fostering, step families)
  • Living a life without children

Understanding current reproductive technologies

What they can and cannot do and how they might  impact on how human beings are made in the future.

We aim to achieve this by raising the profile of education in reproductive health and broadening the scope of Relationship and Sex Education in schools and colleges. We will create greater awareness and understanding about fertility and reproductive health amongst parents and other key influencers.  We are developing materials to improve the quality of teaching about fertility and reproductive health in schools and colleges and also to provide health professionals, particularly those working in primary care (GPs, practice nurses) as well as school nurses and midwives access to information and resources on fertility and reproductive health.

Please tell us what you think.