Australia’s first IVF baby calls for fertility education in schools

Candice Thum made headlines 35 years ago, as Australia’s first IVF baby. At school, she often relayed to her fascinated classmates the ground-breaking science behind her conception. Incredibly, it’s now estimated that one child in every Australian classroom is born through IVF, yet their classmates remain just as clueless about assisted reproduction. It’s prompted a national campaign, calling for fertility education to be taught in schools. 

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Candice and fellow IVFling, Rebecca Featherston-Jelen recently launched a fertility awareness campaign in Sydney, saying they’re continually shocked at the ignorance surrounding fertility.

“From talking with women and people our age we’ve found that things that seem so obvious to Candice and I – like fertility declines with age and it’s also a male factor as well as a female factor, just little points like that so many people weren’t aware of and had no idea,” Rebecca tells Babyology. 

Some people say ‘Oh, I didn’t know the best time to fall pregnant was in my 20s as opposed to people who just have absolutely no idea, asking ‘what is ovulation?’.”

The reason the pair, who are both mothers, feel so strongly about including fertility education as part of the high school syllabus, is because time is of the essence.

“People need to have the right information at the right time. People are not getting the information on infertility until after it’s too late,” Candice explains to Babyology.

“Some of the time women, or couples, leave it a little bit too late and think they can just go down the IVF path, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way. It’s amazing, but it doesn’t always work and it can be quite an emotion rollercoaster,” says Rebecca.

The national Fertility Matters campaign also aims to debunk some of the common misconceptions about assisted reproduction. Candice and Becky say most people assume they are reproductively challenged, because they were born through IVF.

“That’s a total myth. It’s not genetic. Candice and I have conceived children naturally. And because there is one IVF or assisted reproductive child in every classroom, they’re going to want to know that that’s ok and that they too can have kids,” Rebecca says.

The hope is that students in years 11 and 12 will be educated on important fertility factors, that may later prevent heartache.

Candice says, “We’re just wanting to arm them with the information to take later into life. The fact that one in six couples will have issues falling pregnant. In some cases it’s going to be the male, in some cases it’s going to be the female. In some cases it might be both.”

Rebecca adds, “When Candice and I were growing up in school, we didn’t really know much about IVF, except what our parents told us. We then had to explain that to other kids who didn’t understand, might not have ever heard of it. Whereas now there are so many kids born through surrogacy, born through IVF, we want them to be able to have the knowledge and power to tell their kids a bit about their family.”

The pair is now keen to gather as much information as possible, through a survey, in a bid to gauge the community’s level of knowledge on fertility.  Head to Fertility Matters for more information.

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