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Time to pregnancy: a computational method for using the duration of non-conception for predicting conception

Sozou, Peter D. and Hartshorne, Geraldine M. (2012) Time to pregnancy: a computational method for using the duration of non-conception for predicting conception. PLOS ONE, 7 (10). e46544. ISSN 1932-6203

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Identification Number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046544


An important problem in reproductive medicine is deciding when people who have failed to become pregnant without medical assistance should begin investigation and treatment. This study describes a computational approach to determining what can be deduced about a couple's future chances of pregnancy from the number of menstrual cycles over which they have been trying to conceive. The starting point is that a couple's fertility is inherently uncertain. This uncertainty is modelled as a probability distribution for the chance of conceiving in each menstrual cycle. We have developed a general numerical computational method, which uses Bayes' theorem to generate a posterior distribution for a couple's chance of conceiving in each cycle, conditional on the number of previous cycles of attempted conception. When various metrics of a couple's expected chances of pregnancy were computed as a function of the number of cycles over which they had been trying to conceive, we found good fits to observed data on time to pregnancy for different populations. The commonly-used standard of 12 cycles of non-conception as an indicator of subfertility was found to be reasonably robust, though a larger or smaller number of cycles may be more appropriate depending on the population from which a couple is drawn and the precise subfertility metric which is most relevant, for example the probability of conception in the next cycle or the next 12 cycles. We have also applied our computational method to model the impact of female reproductive ageing. Results indicate that, for women over the age of 35, it may be appropriate to start investigation and treatment more quickly than for younger women. Ignoring reproductive decline during the period of attempted conception added up to two cycles to the computed number of cycles before reaching a metric of subfertility.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2012 The Authors
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HA Statistics
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Date Deposited: 15 Oct 2012 10:46
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 01:58

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