WEDNESDAY, Jan. 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- New U.S. government
statistics show there's still a major divide among women when it
comes to infertility: Poor, nonwhite and less educated women are
the least likely to seek services to get pregnant.
A federal report released Wednesday also showed that the
percentage of women aged 15 to 44 who have sought infertility
treatment or assistance has actually declined since 1982, despite
advances in technology designed to help women have babies.
This could be a sign that women are waiting longer to try to
have children, since the researchers didn't track women beyond age
Still, "we're not seeing dramatic increases over time in women
who have had any type of medical service for infertility," said
report author Anjani Chandra, a health scientist with the U.S.
National Center for Health Statistics.
Chandra said federal researchers launched their report in an
effort to understand trends in fertility treatment, "especially
given that there's so much media coverage about the esoteric and
unusual situations that arrive with multiple births. There's
definitely an impression in the media that these treatments are
dramatically increasing over time, and that infertility itself is
also on the rise."
A previous report, co-authored by Chandra and published last
August, found that infertility itself isn't increasing. It had
actually dropped from 8.5 percent to 6 percent of married women
between 1982 and 2010, the researchers found. The new report is
based on surveys of more than 22,000 men and women aged 15 to 44.
The surveys were taken between 2006 and 2010.
Researchers found that 17 percent of women aged 15 to 44 had
sought fertility services, which include seeking advice about
getting pregnant, infertility testing, artificial insemination and
drug treatments. That number was 20 percent in 1995. Among women
aged 24 to 44, advice, testing, drug treatments and medical
assistance to prevent miscarriage were the most commonly used
The percentage of women who had never had children and sought
fertility services also dropped, from 56 percent in 1982 to 38
percent in the new study's timeframe.
"We think this is a consequence of delayed childbearing among all women," Chandra said. "They're not necessarily getting married or trying to have a child until later on, and may be more likely to pursue infertility [services] beyond the age of 44."
Arthur Greil, a professor of sociology at Alfred University in
New York who studies access to treatments for infertility, said
Chandra's speculation makes sense.
"Women, and especially middle-class white women, are delaying having a first child even longer than before," he said. "Part of that reason may be because they have confidence that infertility treatments, when they need them, will work. For a lot of them, it's a false confidence because the treatments work better when you're young."
The researchers behind the new study found that 21 percent of
the wealthiest women had sought fertility services, compared to 13
percent of the poorest women. Fifteen percent of white women aged
15 to 44 had gotten medical treatment for infertility, compared to
only 8 percent of Hispanic and black women.
Previous research has shown that fertility rates among women are
about the same, regardless of income levels and race, Chandra said.
And research suggests that poorer women and minority women share
the same desire for children as other women, she added.
So why the disparity?
Lack of money and insurance definitely play a role, said Greil.
The treatments can be very expensive and may not always be covered
But money isn't the only issue, he said. "Whites and Asians are
much more likely to have partners and families who encourage
fertility treatments. African Americans and Hispanics, to a lesser
extent, are less likely to be encouraged by family members and
partners to use fertility treatments. Part of the issue may be that
these groups have less trust in medical institutions," he said.
It's unclear how much difference health care reform under
Obamacare will make in terms of access for the number of poor and
nonwhite women who turn to infertility treatments, Greil said.
Research in Massachusetts, which has a health care system similar
to the one that's now being adopted nationally, suggests that "even
when health insurance covers in-vitro fertilization, women of color
and poorer women were still less likely to get treatment," he
The message, Greil said, is: "There's more going on than just
For more about
infertility, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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