Consumers' neighborhoods may affect their ability to conceive, study finds

Photo (c) Karl Hendon - Getty Images

Socioeconomic factors may impact fertility outcomes

While recent studies have found the ways that everything from stress to marijuana and climate change may affect consumers’ fertility, a new study is looking into the effect of socioeconomic factors. According to researchers from Oregon State University, where consumers live could impact the likelihood that women conceive. 

“The world of fertility research is beginning to examine factors associated with the built environment,” said researcher Mary Willis. “There are dozens of studies looking at how your neighborhood environment is associated with adverse birth outcomes, but the pre-conception period is heavily under-studied from a structural standpoint. Turns out, before you’ve even conceived, there may be things affecting your health.” 

What affects fertility health?

The researchers analyzed data from over 6,300 women between the ages of 21 and 45 enrolled in Boston University’s Pregnancy Study Online (PRESTO) to better understand how consumers’ neighborhoods may affect their fertility. The women answered questionnaires every two months for a year, reporting on their pregnancy status, menstrual cycles, and addresses. The participants had all tried conceiving naturally between 2013 and 2019. 

Ultimately, the team learned that where the women lived played a role in the likelihood of them conceiving. The biggest differences came from advantaged areas versus disadvantaged areas. 

On a national level, women who lived in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods were 21% less likely to conceive during any single menstrual cycle. When looking at women at a statewide level, those living in disadvantaged neighborhoods were 25% less likely to conceive during a menstrual cycle. 

The researchers explained that the majority of the women involved in the study weren’t necessarily socioeconomically disadvantaged themselves. They were predominantly college-educated women who made at least $50,000 per year. However, where they lived proved to be a hindrance to their fertility. 

“The fact that we’re seeing the same results on the national and state level really shows that neighborhood deprivation can influence reproductive health, including fertility,” said Willis. 

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