Hum Reprod 2014 Dec 5. pii: deu328.

Fertility awareness online: the efficacy of a fertility education website in increasing knowledge and changing fertility beliefs

Daniluk JC and Koert E

Abstract

Study question: : How effective is online education in increasing knowledge of fertility and assisted reproductive technologies (ART), and changing beliefs about the timing of parenthood?

Summary answer: Exposure to an online educational intervention resulted in immediate changes in participants' beliefs about the ideal timing of parenthood, and a significant increase in their knowledge of fertility and ART treatments and options; most of these changes were not sustained over time, particularly for men.

What is known already: Research has identified significant gaps in men's and women's knowledge of fertility and ART, contributing to the trend to delay childbearing. Effective educational programs need to be developed, to support informed fertility and child-timing decisions

Study design, size, duration: Pre-post intervention study of 199 currently childless men and women, and a 6-month follow-up of 110 of these participants.

Participants/materials, setting, methods: One hundred and ninety-nine childless participants between the ages of 18 and 35 were asked to complete 4 beliefs and 22 knowledge questions prior to, and immediately after, reading 10 online posts related to: fertility testing and preservation, fertility history and lifespan, the effects of health and fitness on fertility, and assisted reproduction. Six months later, 110 of the original sample repeated the 26-item survey.

Main results and the role of chance: Participants' fertility and ART knowledge scores increased significantly immediately after the intervention, as did their confidence in their fertility and ART knowledge. Participants' beliefs about the ideal and latest age a woman or man should consider producing a child decreased. However, 6 months later, participants' beliefs and knowledge levels largely returned to their pre-intervention levels, particularly for the men in the study.

Limitations, reasons for caution: The sample size and the recruitment methods may limit the generalizability of these findings.

Wider implications of the findings: Previous studies have demonstrated the short-term efficacy of online educational approaches to increase fertility knowledge and support informed family planning decisions. Web-based approaches have the benefit of being easily and conveniently accessed by individuals worldwide. However, the findings of the current study call into question the long-term efficacy of online fertility education, and suggest that variables such as gender and relevance need to be considered in assessing the efficacy of online fertility education strategies.

Comment: Although web-based information is very useful for prospective users of family planning methods, it can never fully replace person-to-person contact in counseling. (HMV)