The majority of Canadian men and women are so uninformed about their own fertility they could wind up childless, according to a new poll from the University of British Columbia.

More than 90 per cent of respondents in the National Fertility Awareness survey incorrectly believed or were uncertain whether in vitro fertilization could help a woman have a baby with her own eggs right until she hits menopause.

In reality, less than two per cent of IVF procedures are successful for women in their mid-late 40s using their own eggs.

This and other common misconceptions are what led UBC counseling psychology professor Judith Daniluk to launch a new website debunking myths and helping adults make educated choices.

“The concerning part is more people are ending up childless by default, because when they delay and they get to the point where they start to pursue treatment, treatment can’t compensate for age-related declines,” Daniluk said.

“We don’t want you to get blindsided.”

Only 51 per cent of women and 66 per cent of men surveyed understood that a woman’s eggs are as old as she is, and just 41 per cent of men and 43 per cent of women realized that a man’s age is also an important factor in a couple’s chances of becoming pregnant.

“There’s starting to become some evidence that men who are fathering children into their late 40s and 50s and 60s, that those kids have higher incidents of learning disabilities, autism, potential schizophrenia, some forms of cancer,” Daniluk said.

Another major misconception was that overall health and fitness levels are better indicators of fertility than age. Wrong again, Daniluk said.

The mistaken beliefs probably have a lot to do with Hollywood, she added, where healthy-looking stars are frequently seen sporting baby bumps well into their 40s. Daniluk said what the public doesn’t realize is that many of them are likely using the eggs of a much younger woman.

Whatever the cause, this misinformation appears to be having real-world impacts on families’ choices; according to Statistics Canada, the average age of women giving birth to their first child has risen from 25-29 in 1991 all the way to 30-34 today.

And though in vitro fertilization can be an effective tool for older women who froze their eggs at a younger age or are willing to use donor eggs, many people are also unaware of how costly it can be – which, even in Canada, ranges from around $8,000 to $12,000.

‘Many women believed that it was under $5,000,” Daniluk said. “There are an awful lot of people who can’t afford reproductive technologies like IVF. It’s only those who are economically advantaged who can even pursue those treatments.”

Daniluk advocates for more accessible IVF treatments, but in the mean time she said being properly informed about the realities of fertility and reproduction is paramount.

“We don’t want to scare you into having children,” she said. “We want you to be informed so that if you’re not ready you know what to do now to test your fertility, [and] potentially preserve your fertility.”

The National Fertility Awareness survey polled 3,346 childless women and 599 men between the ages of 20 and 50. For more information, visit the My Fertility Choices website. 

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Maria Weisgarber