US Infertility Rate Plateaus, Demographics Play Major Role: Study

Kaitlin Edwards

June 28, 2022

Infertility rates among women in the U.S. have remained about the same over the past 2 decades, according to a study published this month in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

Defined as the inability to conceive after 1 year of trying, many things can cause infertility, including sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease, and access to reproductive health care.

Researchers with Johns Hopkins University used survey data from the federally supported National Survey for Family Growth to estimate infertility rates over time and investigate how demographics, behavior, and health might affect these rates.

They found that infertility increases sharply with age, despite whether a woman has had a child or not. Women ages 40 to 44 were 11 times more likely to have infertility, compared to younger women, they said. Overall, the researchers estimated that infertility rates among U.S. women have remained around 7% over the past 20 years or so.

Other significant findings included higher rates of infertility in non-Hispanic Black women, who were 44% more likely to face infertility, compared to women of other races. Infertility among women without access to sexual health care was also 61% higher. Highly educated women were much less likely to have infertility, compared to women who did not complete high school.

"These findings suggest we have to continue to invest in our public health services and push for equal access to reproductive and sexual health care if we want to meet national goals of reducing infertility," Morgan Snow, the study's first author and a medical student at Johns Hopkins, said in a news release.

The survey reached 53,764 women and did not only ask about infertility. Snow and her colleagues also asked questions about sexual activity, contraception, pregnancy, and social, demographic, and health care factors.

"These numbers tell us that fertility is still a problem, particularly for certain vulnerable populations," said Maria Trent, MD, who is a senior author of the study. "This is a unique time period where sexually transmitted infections are on the rise and there are a number of emerging threats to health care access. For care providers who are working with women, it's important to understand how these factors might be influencing fertility."

Sources

Fertility and Sterility: "Estimates of infertility in the United States: 1995-2019."

News release, Johns Hopkins Medicine.

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