• Open Access

Infertility in Australia circa 1980: an historical population perspective on the uptake of fertility treatment by Australian women born in 1946-51

Authors


Correspondence to:
Danielle Herbert, The University of Queensland, School of Population Health, Public Health Building, Herston QLD 4006 Australia. Fax: (07) 3365 5540; e-mail: d.herbert@sph.uq.edu.au

Abstract

Objective: To estimate the prevalence of lifetime infertility in Australian women born in 1946-51 and examine their uptake of treatment.

Methods: Participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health born in 1946-51 (n=13,715) completed up to four mailed surveys from 1996 to 2004. The odds of infertility were estimated using logistic regression with adjustment for socio-demographic and reproductive factors.

Results: Among participants, 92.1% had been pregnant. For women who had been pregnant (n=12738): 56.5% had at least one birth but no pregnancy loss (miscarriage and/or termination); 39.9% experienced both birth and loss; and 3.6% had a loss only. The lifetime prevalence of infertility was 11.0%. Among women who reported infertility (n=1511), 41.7% used treatment. Women had higher odds of infertility when they had reproductive histories of losses only (OR range 9.0-43.5) or had never been pregnant (OR=15.7, 95%CI 11.8-20.8); and higher odds for treatment: losses only (OR range 2.5-9.8); or never pregnant (1.96, 1.28-3.00). Women who delayed their first birth until aged 30+ years had higher odds of treatment (OR range 3.2-4.3).

Conclusions: About one in ten women experienced infertility and almost half used some form of treatment, especially those attempting pregnancy after 1980. Older first time mothers had an increased uptake of treatment as assisted reproductive technologies (ART) developed.

Implications: This study provided evidence of the early uptake of treatment prior to 1979 when the national register of invasive ART was developed and later uptake prior to 1998 when data on non-invasive ART were first collected.

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