The postponement of parenthood may increase the number of couples experiencing infertility and prolonged time to pregnancy. Previous research has revealed that childless people are not well informed regarding fertility, which may threat their childbearing intentions. This study aimed to examine fertility knowledge and childbearing intentions held by Portuguese people and their use and perceived usefulness of information sources on fertility.
Participants were recruited using a random-route domiciliary approach. A total of 2404 individuals aged 18–45 were asked to complete a structured questionnaire evaluating socio-demographic characteristics, childbearing intentions, fertility knowledge and information-gathering sources regarding fertility.
In total, 95.5% of the participants indicated the desire to have children in the future, and 61.7% reported that having children would contribute to life satisfaction. Most of the participants expressed the desire to have two children in the future. The discrepancy between the numbers of planned and desired children was higher in men, in participants with lower education levels, in professionally active participants and in the unemployed participants. Relationship stability seemed to be more important in influencing childbearing decisions than financial stability or family support.
Participants’ knowledge regarding fertility was poor. Women, the participants who were older than 25, the participants with longer education and the participants with higher income exhibited the greatest levels of knowledge of fertility, although this knowledge was only slightly enhanced in these subgroups. Also, the participants overestimated both the chances of spontaneous pregnancy and the success rates of assisted reproduction techniques. Finally, the results revealed that websites were the main information sources used by the participants and only 18.0% of the participants had previously discussed fertility issues with their doctors.
Although Portuguese men and women reported the desire to have children in the future, their knowledge regarding fertility and infertility risk was poor. In addition, participants used more general sources of information, such as website, but not specialized sources, such as their doctors. There is a real need to work with general practitioners to empower them to provide adequate fertility information to every childless patient.