In one study of reproductive-age women in the U.S., 40% were unfamiliar with the ovulatory cycle. Yes, you read that right: 40%. When I first came across that statistic I thought, “That can’t be right.” But after really contemplating it, I can’t say I’m very surprised. 

I was 27 and newly married with a bachelor's degree before I knew I could only get pregnant during my ovulation window. A few months later, I was completely blindsided by an infertility diagnosis — even though, according to the CDC, 1 in 5 women struggles to conceive for a year or more. 

For the better part of the past five years, I have been going through fertility treatments to start, and grow, my family. I have also spoken with countless women about their own difficult fertility journeys, many of whom have started the conversation with, “If only I had known sooner…” 

Hindsight is 20/20, but when it comes to fertility and women’s health, it shouldn’t have to be.

woman watching the sun set behind a mountain

What We Didn't Learn in Sex Ed

Women are born with all of the eggs they’ll ever have, with egg quantity and quality slowly declining as we age, beginning in the early 30s. Dr. Shahab Minassian, the Director of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility of Main Line Fertility at Reading Hospital, explains: “This decline speeds up more in the mid-30s. The age of 35 has been a benchmark for this life event for many years. However, turning 35 is not the switch that turns on the process. It’s gradual.” 

For healthy couples in their 20s and early 30s, around 1 in 4 women will get pregnant in any single menstrual cycle. By age 40, that number decreases to 1 in 10, according to ACOG. Yet, while many women are delaying having kids until their late-30s and even 40s, the average age of those who pursue egg freezing is still 38. It simply doesn’t add up. 

As you can imagine, at Rescripted we have a lot of conversations about fertility. But in attempting to understand why so many bright, educated, and successful women are so seemingly in the dark when it comes to their reproductive health, we keep coming back to the same conclusion: we blame Sex Ed. 

condom on a banana

Sex Education focuses on pregnancy prevention — not fertility awareness. 

According to the School Health Policies and Practices Study, high school teachers provide only 6.2 hours of sex education on average, which doesn’t seem nearly enough. Not only that, with as many as 28 states requiring Sex Ed to stress abstinence, this limits the information that teens receive about pregnancy and STI prevention as well as about how conception actually works. The Sex Education Collaborative also reports that only 17 of 50 states require medically accurate sex education, which doesn’t leave us feeling very confident about the State of Sex Ed in this country. 

The truth is, Sex Ed in the U.S. is broken and, frankly, mislabeled. In being taught how to put a condom on a banana when we were 13, we learned pregnancy prevention — not fertility awareness. As a result, we now have an entire generation of women (*cough, millennials*) who have unintentionally become reactive instead of proactive about their fertility, leaving them in a position with fewer options and threatening their emotional and mental health.

We shouldn’t be learning about how our bodies work when we’re in the process of trying to grow our families. This only leads to feelings of stress, sadness, and frustration when the ignorance-is-bliss bubble is burst and you’re faced with fertility struggles thanks to a lack of proper education. Knowledge is power, and women (and men!) should be learning about their reproductive options in their early 20s, rather than being told to “Wait, and see what happens."

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Women's health information should be free and accessible to all.

Women make up 50% of the global population, and women’s health education — something that should be free and accessible to all — has been historically repressed. In fact, the FDA only began allowing women to participate in clinical research studies in 1993. So, not only do we simply not know enough about women’s health issues, their symptoms are often played down, ignored, or dismissed as ‘normal,’ leaving many unsure of how to continue to advocate for better care. 

We know education is a key social determinant of health, and at Rescripted we’re making up for lost time by providing women with the best, science-backed reproductive health content in the voice of your best friend over brunch. We hope that by continuing to rescript the conversation around fertility and women’s health, we’ll pave the way for women to become more informed and proactive when it comes to their reproductive, hormonal, and sexual health – for themselves and for future generations. 

Read the full 'State of Sex Ed 2023' report here.

Kristyn Hodgdon is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Rescripted.