Fewer Women Seeking Medical Help for Infertility, Data Show

Troy Brown, RN

January 22, 2014

Although wide disparities still exist in the use of infertility services in the United States, fewer women are seeking medical help to get pregnant compared with in recent decades, according to a report published online January 22 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) National Health Statistics Reports.

Anjani Chandra, PhD, from the National Center for Health Statistics, CDC, Atlanta, Georgia, and colleagues analyzed data primarily from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), which consisted of 22,682 interviews with men and women aged 15 to 44 years conducted from June 2006 through June 2010.

"To better understand the patterns in overall use of infertility services over time, this report describes the types of infertility services used and the characteristics of women aged 15–44, focusing specifically on women aged 25–44, who have ever used specific types of infertility services, based on the 1982, 1988, 1995, 2002, and 2006–2010 NSFGs," the authors write.

Among women aged 15 to 44 years in 2006-2010, 12% (7.3 million women) of them, their husbands, or partners had ever used infertility services. This was about the same percentage as that in 1982, but because of the larger population size of this age group during 2006-2010, use of the services actually increased by about 600,000 women from 1982.

Among women aged 25 to 44 years, 17% (6.9 million) had ever used any infertility service. This was significantly lower than the 20% who had used infertility services in 1995.

Among nulliparous women aged 25 to 44 years who experienced fertility problems in 2006 to 2010, 38% had ever used infertility services. This was significantly less than the 56% of such women who used these services in 1982. Women of childbearing age during 2006 to 2010 may have delayed childbearing until they were older than women during 1982, and thus may have been more likely to use fertility services after age 44 years, the authors write.

Among women aged 25 to 44 years in 2006 to 2010, more than 5 million women (13%) had ever sought medical help to get pregnant. The most frequently used infertility services were also the simplest and least costly: advice, testing, medical assistance to prevent miscarriage, and ovulation drugs.

Among men aged 25 to 44 years in 2006 to 2010, 9.4% reported ever-use of infertility services, which is similar to levels observed in 2002.

Use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), including in vitro fertilization, was rare across the board (0.7% of women 25 - 44 years old in 2006-2010); it was most likely to have been used by women experiencing current fertility problems. When the researchers limited their analysis to women with current fertility problems, the odds of having used any infertility services or medical help getting pregnant did not change significantly during the last 2 decades.

In all survey years studied, the highest ever-use of medical help to get pregnant was found among older and nulliparous women, non-Hispanic white women, women with current fertility problems, and women with higher levels of education and household income.

After controlling for these factors, the odds of ever using medical assistance to get pregnant rose in 2006 to 2010 compared with in 1995.

"[T]here are public health strategies in place in the United States that focus on the primary prevention of infertility," the authors conclude. "In addition, some have called for a national action plan to address disparities in access to infertility services in the United States, as well as improved surveillance of all types of infertility services, not limited to ART, in order to monitor potential health and health care implications for women, children, and families."

The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics conducted the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth with the support and assistance of a number of organizations with the US Department of Health and Human Services. The University of Michigan's Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, conducted interviewing and other tasks under a contract with NCHS.

National Health Stat Rep. Published online January 22, 2014. Full text

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