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How Prevalent is Infertility?

a blog by Jennifer A. Redmond, April 14, 2013

It is generally stated that infertility affects 7.4 percent of married women in the U.S., a number determined by the 2002 National Survey for Family Growth. The survey respondents, U.S. women of reproductive age, answered questions on relationship status, sexual activity, contraceptive use and pregnancy in the past 12 months. However, new methodology indicates that the number of infertile women in the U.S is actually twice as high.

A recent study, "Prevalence of Infertility in the United States as Estimated by the Current Duration Approach and a Traditional Constructed Approach,” looked at the way the National Survey arrived at the number (the “Traditional Approach”), and a second “Current Approach,” based on respondents’ estimated time to pregnancy.

The 2002 survey findings were based on the following assumptions: women who are currently pregnant, using contraception, or sterilized are not infertile; women must be married or cohabitating and in a continuous relationship to be able to experience infertility.

In contrast, the current approach estimates the proportion of women having tried for one year or more among all women who are currently trying to conceive.

Using the current approach, the authors determined that prevalence of infertility is actually 15.5 percent - two times greater than we generally report. The authors conclude that “these findings underscore the importance of definition and methodologic approach for estimating the prevalence of infertility.”

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