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U.S. infertility rates falling, says CDC

Despite increasing attention around in vitro fertilization, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says infertility rates in the U.S. are falling.

The new report from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics tracked U.S. fertility problems from 1982 through 2010 from survey phone interviews of more than 22,600 Americans. It included data on infertility, defined as lack of pregnancy in 12 months prior to the survey despite having unprotected sex each month with the same partner, and impaired fecundity, which means physical difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to live birth.

The survey was part of the National Survey of Family Growth, which "provides demographic 'snapshots' of the impact of societal trends such as delayed marriage and childbearing, and tracks the potential demand for infertility-related medical services," the authors wrote.

They found that 6 percent of married women aged 15 to 44, about 1.5 million women, were considered infertile at some point from 2006 through 2010. But, that's down from 8.5 percent of women (2.4 million) in 1982.

"When you look at this downward trend, it goes against the popular wisdom of people we all know," report author Anjani Chandra, a health scientist at the National Center for Health Statistics, told USA Today.

Age may have played a role in infertility. Among married women without children, 25 percent of those aged 35 to 39 were infertile, so too were 30 percent of those 40 to 44 years old. That's compared with between 7.3 percent and 9.1 percent of women under 34 years of age.

About 9 percent of men aged 15 through 44 had some form of infertility or non-surgical sterility during 2006 to 2010. There was no overall change in their fertility rates from 2002 through 2006 to 2010.

"The level of infertility is being counteracted by their pursuit of medical help to have a child," said Chandra. "Both together are bringing down the percentage we see as infertile when we do our survey."

Infertility treatments include medications, assisted reproductive technology - including IVF and intracytoplasmic sperm injection - and surgery if there is a physical problem, WebMD reports.

More advanced forms of IVF are also being utilized, including methods thatscreen chromosomes from embryos looking for genetic diseases and "three-parent IVF"designed to prevent mitochondrial diseases like muscular dystrophy in offspring.

As for impaired fecundity, rates actually increased from 11 percent in 1982 among married women to 15 percent in 2002, but then dropped down to 12 percent of U.S. women from 2006 through 2010.

For all women, impaired fecundity held stable at 11 percent from 2006 to 2010.

The report also uncovered other fertility trends.

Currently married, currently cohabitating and formerly married women were more likely to have problems carrying a pregnancy to term than never-married, non-cohabitating and younger women.

Married men and women were more likely to be surgically sterile due to contraceptive reasons than their unmarried counterparts.

Women with a high school education or less were more likely to have undergone such procedures (44 percent) than those with a Bachelor's (21 percent) or higher (16 percent).

The full report was published Aug. 14 on the CDC's website.

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