Asking One Question May Help Doctors Better Understand Infertility
by Lisa René LeClair
Photograph by Twenty20
is a complex phenomenon that many couples face when they're ready to have
children. In fact, the problem is so widespread that some medical societies are calling it a "disease." Sadly, infertility's cause is still a mystery.
But new research hopes to shed some light on women's and infants’
health by interpreting the answer to this one simple question: Have you ever
been sexually active for a year or more without using contraception and (without) becoming pregnant?
In a recent
article published in Fertility and Sterility, “Parental
Health Status and Infant Outcomes: Upstate KIDS Study,” Dr. Germaine M. Buck Louis, the former
director of intramural population health research at the Eunice
Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
(NICHD) and now a dean at George Mason University, along with colleagues from the
University at Albany and NICHD, shared
results of their study.
the overall health of parents, including infertility and infant outcomes, such
as gestation and birth size (weight, length and head circumference), Buck Louis and
colleagues determined that experience with infertility is directly linked to shorter gestation
and diminished birth size.
measured in three ways: (1) those who
were ever sexually active for a year or more without the use of contraception and
without becoming pregnant; (2) those ever requiring 12-plus months to become pregnant; and
(3) those requiring 12-plus months to become pregnant with the pregnancy being
assessed in this study. The most consistent findings were for definition No. 1.
infants born to women who had experienced infertility weighed less (62 grams), were slightly shorter
(0.33 cm) and had smaller (0.35 cm) head circumferences in comparison to women
without infertility issues.
interesting observation: Women with a history of hypertension or asthma had
shorter pregnancies and lighter infants than those without these chronic conditions.
this study to improve our understanding of parental health status, infertility
treatment and the health status of future generations,” Buck Louis wrote. “To our
knowledge, this is the first study to include infertility in the context of other
chronic diseases. Our findings suggest that infertility and chronic diseases
may have long-lasting implications for infant health outcomes.”
additional research is needed before infertility can be fully defined, asking
one simple question may be the best indicator we have, to date, of its
association with birth size.