Advertisers & "Advisers" Focus On Fertile Territory

Two new ad campaigns aim to educate younger women about infertility: although one gives women the facts on fertility and the other makes false claims, both, one could argue, use fear as a major motivation.

Newsweek reports that this week, the American Fertility Association (AFA) will hold the first in a series of one-hour conversations about reproductive health with a "Manicures & Martinis" event at a Manhattan nail salon. The event is targeted at women in their 20s and 30s who aren't ready to have children yet. A group of 25 women will be served martinis and alcohol-free "fertilitinis" at the salon as a fertility expert leads a discussion about the reality of the biological clock and risk factors for fertility. "I wanted to create a program that was soft, that was light and that was non-threatening," says the AFA's director of development, Corey Whelan, who adds that the message of the program is "one of hope, not one of doom and gloom." The event is being promoted through social networking sites like Facebook so women can invite their friends in a "girlfriend-to-girlfriend experience."

The first salon event will be run by Dr. Jaime Grifo, program director at the New York University Fertility Center, who says the goal of the program is "not to be paternalistic or dictatorial, it's to be educational so people make decisions consciously rather than unconsciously." Though some say that harping on the threat of infertility is sexist and unfair to single women, others argue that having information on the topic is empowering. Though fertility varies greatly in women, studies show that generally fertility starts to decline in the late 20s and drops of dramatically in the late 30s. Grifo says that while many young women assume they'll have children one day, they don't think about how to get there. "It's so easy to deny and not think about these things and then show up in my office at 44 and say, 'I've tried for two months, what's wrong?'" she says.

While the AFA says the goal of the "Manicures & Martinis" event is not to induce a panic among younger women, in the UK, one Christian group attempted to instill the fear of infertility in even younger women to get them to refuse the HPV vaccine. The Daily Mail reports that the group Christian Voice ran an ad in the magazine New Statesmen that claimed: "Every Government initiative, including the HPV vaccine, will increase [teenage infertility], but as all the targets revolve around pregnancy, no-one in power knows how many young people they are making sterile and nobody cares." Following complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, the agency investigated and ruled that the group has to pull the ad, since there is no significant scientific evidence that the HPV vaccine causes infertility in teenagers. Christian Voice now claims that their freedom of speech is being limited, since they argue that the HPV vaccine will increase teen sex and cause a surge in STD infections that cause infertility.

The AFA program in New York will discuss the negative effects of STDs, smoking, and substance abuse on fertility, in addition to age. It will also address fertility treatment options such as egg freezing, a procedure that can cost up to $10,000 and is still considered experimental. Though the AFA claims the only goal of the campaign is to educate women, it is funded by the drug company that makes the fertility drug Follistim, a pharmacy that provides fertility prescriptions, and several fertility clinics. But Whelan insists that though the AFA needs funding from these groups, they have not influenced what will be taught in the infertility prevention program. "We're trying to decrease the patient population, not increase it," she says.

Have Another ‘Fertilitini’ [Newsweek]
Watchdog Bans Christian Advert That Claims Cervical Cancer Vaccine Causes Infertility [The Daily Mail]