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Infertility Issues Call for Better Data, More Research

Social issues may mask biological causes of infertility; fetal development needs more study

MONDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- In order to better treat infertility, the field of fertility research requires better data on populations' reproductive ability, and should look more closely at prenatal exposures and environmental factors as causes of infertility, according to an editorial published in the Feb. 16 issue of BMJ.

Jens Peter Ellekilde Bonde, M.D., of Aarhus University Hospital in Aarhus, Denmark, and a colleague anticipate lower reproduction rates in coming decades, since with medically assisted conception, couples who have difficulty conceiving naturally may be able to have as many children as fertile couples, thus making genetic factors related to infertility more common in coming generations.

Other factors related to reproductive rate -- including social conditions, contraceptive practices and desire for a particular family size -- may conceal underlying biological factors affecting fertility in a society. Health surveys should include more questions relating to factors affecting birth rates to provide data for better tracking of populations' reproductive ability. More research should also focus on causes of infertility that arise during fetal development, not just factors that figure in much later when the individual is trying to reproduce.

"There are good grounds for promoting further research and for trying to make up for the many years during which research into infertility has been neglected. The endocrine disruption hypothesis -- which states that environmental chemicals may cause adverse development of sexual organs by interference with hormonal regulation -- is just one of many hypotheses that deserve attention from funding agencies," the authors conclude.

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