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Hum Reprod. 2003 Dec;18(12):2711-7.

Self-reported difficulty in conceiving as a measure of infertility.

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School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Brisbane 4006, Australia.



This study aimed to explore the meaning and potential use of women's self-reported difficulties in conceiving as a measure of infertility in epidemiological studies, and to compare women's stated reasons for infertility with information in their medical records.


Data were available from a population-based case-control study of ovarian cancer involving 1638 women. The sensitivity and specificity of women's self-reported infertility were calculated against their estimated fertility status based on detailed reproductive histories. Self-reported reasons for infertility were compared with diagnoses documented in women's medical records.


The sensitivity of women's self-reported difficulty in conceiving was 66 and 69% respectively when compared with calendar-derived and self-reported times taken trying to conceive; its specificity was 95%. Forty-one (23%) of the 179 women for whom medical records were available had their self-reported fertility problem confirmed. Self-reported infertility causes could be compared with diagnoses in medical records for only 22 of these women.


Self-reported difficulty conceiving is a useful measure of infertility for quantifying the burden of fertility problems experienced in the community. Validation of reasons for infertility is unlikely to be feasible through examination of medical records. Improved education of the public regarding the availability and success rates of infertility treatments is proposed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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