BACKGROUND: Having accurate knowledge of reproductive biology can help women to improve their general, sexual, and reproductive health and assert their sexual and reproductive rights.
METHODS: This cross-sectional study examined knowledge of three topics (age-related fertility decline, egg supply, fertile period) among a national probability sample of 1,779 nonsterilized, English-speaking women (aged 18-29 years) in the U.S. general population. Using bivariate and multivariable regressions, we assessed associations between knowledge of these topics and individual characteristics.
RESULTS: Most respondents were unmarried (63%), childless (78%), and intended to have children (65%); 51% did not know whether they would have difficulty conceiving, and 44% had discussed fertility-related topics with a health care provider. More respondents knew the age of marked fertility decline (62%) than the fertile period (59%) or that ovaries do not continuously produce new eggs (45%); 22% knew all three topics, and 13% knew none. In multivariable analysis, knowledge was positively associated (p < .001) with education, income, and having regular periods. Black and Asian respondents and those for whom religion was very important were less likely (all p values < .01) than White and nonreligious respondents to know all three topics. Knowledge was unrelated to relationship status, parity, childbearing intentions, receipt of fertility-related counseling or services, self-perceived infertility risk, or health status; the relationship with Hispanic ethnicity approached but did not reach significance (p = .08).
CONCLUSIONS: Young U.S. women have incomplete knowledge of aspects of their reproductive biology; these knowledge gaps could increase their risk of adverse health and reproductive outcomes. Policy-, provider-, and client-level interventions are warranted to address these knowledge gaps.