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Fertility Drugs Impact on US Births

Six percent of US infants are now exposed to ovulation stimulation treatments.

Chart: Fertility Drug Impact on U.S. Births. Infants conceived with Non-ART Ovulation Treatment: 31,902 multiple births. 158,380 singleton births. Total: 191,286 or 4.6% od total U.S. births. Non-ART and ART treatments account for nearly 6% of U.S. births annually.

Infertility medications that result in ovulation stimulation have been associated with high multiple birth rates and multiple births are associated with a range of complications for both the mother and the infant. Additionally, ovulation stimulation medications have also been linked to increased preterm delivery rates, even in singleton infants.

Ovulation stimulation medications are used in conjunction with assisted reproductive technologies or ART, such as in vitro fertilization. We know a fair amount about ART pregnancies and births, in part because of data that come from the National ART surveillance system maintained by CDC. Currently ~1% of births are conceived with ART.

Ovulation stimulation medications are often also used alone (without ART). There is currently no national tracking system for non-ART ovulation stimulation treatments, but it has been estimated their contribution to the birth cohort might be much higher than the ART contribution.

The current study used several sources of published data to develop models to estimate the likely contribution of non-ART ovulation treatments on multiple and singleton births in the United States.

The findings indicate that:

Nearly 32,000 US multiple-birth infants in 2005 were conceived using a non-ART ovulation treatment. These infants accounted for 22.8% of the total multiple births in the United States. Additionally, approximately 159,000 singleton infants in 2005 were conceived using a non-ART ovulation treatment.

Thus, in all, an estimated 191,000 US infants born in 2005 were the result of non-ART ovulation stimulation treatments.

These infants accounted for 4.6% (95% uncertainty range: 2.8%–7.1%)of the total US births.

Putting this in context with ART treatments:

  • Non-ART ovulation stimulation is estimated to account for 3 and a half to 4 times as many infants as ART treatments.
  • Together, ART and non-ART account for nearly 6% of US births annually.

Data Source:

Schieve LA, Devine O, Boyle CA, Petrini JR, Warner L. Estimation of the Contribution of Non–Assisted Reproductive Technology Ovulation Stimulation Fertility Treatments to US Singleton and Multiple Births. Am J Epidemiol. 2009;170:1396-1407.

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