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Study to investigate infertility in Otago–Southland women

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Wednesday 6 July 2011 9:13am

Little is known about the number of women in New Zealand who experience infertility; their use of health services and their knowledge and attitudes towards the condition and its treatment. Now, a University of Otago PhD student is seeking to shed some light on the situation through a survey of 2000 randomly selected women in Otago and Southland.

Dunedin School of Medicine researcher Antoinette Righarts, who is undertaking the study, says that while the number of women in the southern region seeking specialist treatment for infertility can be ascertained, it is not known how many other women do not seek help but could benefit from it.

“A major international study found that infertility rates in developed nations reached nearly 10 percent of couples and that half of them had not sought medical care. My research aims to provide an indication of what the local situation is, what women’s access to services is like and what level of unmet need exists,” says Ms Righarts.

In the study, around 2000 women aged 25-50 in Otago and Southland are being randomly selected from electoral rolls and invited to fill out an online survey through a secure website, she says.

Women without internet access will also be able to participate through a telephone interview. All data from the survey will be anonymous to ensure the women retain their privacy. All women are invited to participate, whether or not they have ever tried to conceive.

The survey includes asking whether the women have experienced infertility, which is defined as having ever tried to conceive for 12 months without success and/or seeking medical help to conceive. Women affected by infertility will also be asked about their use of fertility services and what the outcome was. The data will be analysed to look for any patterns in infertility and service use according to age, socio-economic status, ethnicity and location.

Results from the study will pave the way for designing future research to investigate risk factors for infertility in New Zealand, she says.

“Infertility can have a distressing impact on individuals, families and relationships, so there is a pressing need for a much better picture of this key aspect of women’s health.”

Ms Righarts is being supervised jointly by A/Prof Wayne Gillett of the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, and A/Prof Nigel Dickson of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine.

For further information, contact

Antoinette Righarts
Dunedin School of Medicine
Tel +64 3 479 4116 or +64 3 477 0454

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