Study finds fewer women are seeking help for infertility

Despite the perception that more people are accessing assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF) to become pregnant, a new federal report published by the National Center for Health Statistics suggests that fewer women in the United States are accessing medical assistance for infertility.

The report surveyed 22,682 American men and women, aged 15-44, between 2006 and 2010.  Given that those aged 25-44 are more likely to seek fertility services, the report primarily focused on this group. In that age group, 17% of the women had accessed fertility services, a decrease from 20% in 1995. The report also found a significant decrease in the percentage of childless women reporting fertility problems  – down to 38% from 56% in 1982. Of those who sought medical assistance to become pregnant the most common medical services were: advice (29%), fertility testing (27%), and ovulation induction drugs (20%). Intra uterine insemination was used by 7.4% of the respondents and only 3.1% had used IVF.

Kurt Barnhart, president of the Society of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, says the report highlights that fertility services are underutilized and not reaching those who need them. Barnhart cites the high cost of these treatments such as IVF, and the fact that not all procedures are covered by insurance, as a factor that might be keeping people from seeking fertility treatments. But Barnhart suggests that many people don’t need expensive or high-tech treatments – they may only need simple treatments and advice in order to get pregnant:

“When people don’t come in to get the consult, they don’t know if simple solutions would have helped them.”

However, according to Barbara Collura, president and CEO of the non-profit fertility support organization RESOLVE, women may be underutilizing fertility services because they don’t realize the challenges of getting pregnant, particularly with advanced age:

“There is a false sense of security that says ‘because I’m more aware of this and hear of women having kids later in life, I’ll be fine.’ You get a lot of women who say ‘I thought this would be easy.’”

Read more about the study here.

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