Lifestyle habits not a factor in length of time to conceive among fertile women, UB study finds

June 21, 2000

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Resolved infertility, defined as conceiving a child only after a year or more of trying, can bring anxiety and emotional pain to a couple wishing to be parents, and can cause them to wonder if they are to blame.

However, University at Buffalo researchers have found that a woman's biology -- specifically age at first menstruation and at first live birth -- were the major predictors of resolved fertility, not lifestyle habits she or her partner may have adopted.

The results were presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research, held last week in Seattle.

"The message from this study is that we need to reassess how we view fertility as a whole," said Danelle T. Lobdell, doctoral student in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and lead author on the study.

"When we assume a certain group of women is fertile, we need to understand that fertility is experienced in different ways and that biological determinants are important in predicting fertility-related impairments."

Interested in learning what factors influence this failure of some fertile women to conceive promptly, Lobdell and colleagues studied the fertility histories of a group of women who underwent tubal sterilization in Western New York after completing their families.

The study involved 126 women who reported taking more than 12 months to conceive their first pregnancies that ended in a live birth, and 252 women who conceived within 12 months who served as controls.

The women were part of a study cohort of 3,303 women aged 17-44 years who underwent tubal sterilization in Western New York and were part of a larger multicenter national study of the health effects of tubal ligation.

Overall, 18 percent of the fertile women among this group were estimated to have had resolved infertility. Using data collected through a follow-up questionnaire, Lobdell assessed the relationship of several lifestyle and biological factors to the time it took to conceive.

None of the lifestyle variables studied -- cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, coffee consumption or regular exercise -- had any effect on the prevalence of fertility-related impairments, the analysis showed.

However, women who were older than 30 at the time of their first live birth were three times more likely to take longer than a year to conceive. Those who began menstruating before they were 11.5 years old were nearly twice as likely to have delayed conception.
-end-
Also involved in this research were Chao-Ju Chen, doctoral student, and Germaine M. Buck, Ph.D., associate professor, both in the UB Department of Social and Preventive Medicine.




University at Buffalo

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