Brisbane, Australia – After trying for pregnancy for a period of time, many women become overly-anxious and consider undergoing infertility treatment. However, a new study reports that these women should try longer before resorting to that option.
The study, which was published online in the journal Fertility and Sterility on January 23, reported that almost half of women who said they had been trying to achieve a pregnancy for at least a year subsequently achieved a pregnancy despite not undergoing any type of fertility treatment.
A research team headed by Danielle Herbert, PhD of the University of Queensland School of Population Health in Brisbane reported that the success rate for these women was only slightly lower than in women who also reported trouble conceiving and opted for treatment with fertility hormones or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Dr. Herbert explained, "Many women aged up to 36 years with a history of infertility can achieve spontaneous conception and live birth without using fertility treatment indicating [they] are sub-fertile rather than infertile." The researchers noted that if a woman does not have any obvious health problems, including regular menstruation, and their husbands have a normal sperm count, they should remain optimistic that they can get pregnant on their own.
The research project was a component of a long-term study of more than 7,000 women living in Australia. Beginning in 1996, the women filled out health surveys every few years, which included questions on pregnancy and childbirth. The study group included approximately 1,400 women aged 28 to 36 who reported on the most recent questionnaires that they had tried to get pregnant for at least a year at a time without success. Almost 600 of those women reported that they had undergone infertility treatment via IVF or fertility hormones, such as clomiphene citrate (Clomid). Through the latest survey, which was conducted in 2009, 53% of those women said they had delivered an infant after undergoing fertility treatment; however, 44% of women who had difficulty conceiving but did not undergo treatment also achieved a successful pregnancy outcome. For women who delivered an infant, no differences were found between the two groups in regard to pregnancy complications, including stillbirths or premature births.
The researchers noted one limitation of the study was that they did not know if the women changed male partners at any point during the study period, which could have affected their chances of becoming pregnant. Other unknown factors in the study were weight gain, weight loss, diet change, or lifestyle changes. For example if an overweight smoker lost weight and quit smoking, her chances for achieving a pregnancy would improve.
Reference: Fertility and Sterility
Take home message: If you have been trying for pregnancy for several months or more without success, it would be prudent to have a thorough gynecologic exam to check for any problems. For your partner, a semen analysis can detect any obvious problems. Kits are available that can detect ovulation. However, a simple inexpensive method is also available. Purchase a basal body temperature thermometer, which is more sensitive to slight temperature changes, and record your temperature daily on a graph in the morning before becoming active. When you ovulate, the temperature should rise about a half degree. If you miss your menstrual period and the temperature remains elevated, chances are you are pregnant.