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These Women Are Less Likely To Seek Infertility Treatment, Study Finds

Women less likely to seek infertility treatment
Image by Alex Tan / Death to the Stock Photo
June 28, 2019

We know many women face fertility challenges. The CDC reports1 that about 6% of women ages 15 to 44 in the United States are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying (defined as infertility) and about 12% have difficulty getting pregnant and carrying a pregnancy. Fertility struggles are not just a women's issue. A man's infertility is a factor in about 35% of cases, but unfortunately, it's often thought of as a women's problem. 

In addition to the stigma associated with infertility, fertility treatment is expensive and not always accessible. While rates of infertility are similar across socioeconomic groups, a new study published in Fertility and Sterility found that white women, women with higher education levels, and women with higher incomes are two times as likely to pursue fertility treatment than those with lower education and less income. 

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The study found that 80% of women who had a college degree or higher saw a doctor about their infertility compared to 33% of women who had a high school degree or less. In terms of income, over two-thirds of women with incomes higher than $100,000 went for treatment versus only a third of women in households making $25,000 or less. 

This may not be surprising, as fertility treatment is not a one-size-fits-all procedure. Finding the right treatment may take extensive testing, doctors' visits, and trial runs to figure out what works, which can be expensive—especially if you're without health insurance. On top of that, common procedures that address fertility struggles, such as in vitro fertilization, can be expensive.

"We hope these findings spur more research and policy changes to address inequities in infertility access," said lead author Angela Kelley, M.D., an OB/GYN at the University of Michigan's Von Voigtlander Women's Hospital in a statement. "Clinicians may also consider outreach to target specific, underrepresented, and underserved patient populations who may not seek infertility care but who would benefit from seeing a provider."

And, of course, fertility is a complicated matter—that involves seeing a health care professional, as well as perhaps making lifestyle choices. Things like maintaining a healthy diet, limiting toxin exposure in your home or foods, and finding ways to manage stress and anxiety may help support fertility.

Fertility challenges are frustrating as they may take a combination of efforts to see results. This study highlights the importance of creating greater access to education and treatment options for infertility as well as more affordable care for all women.

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