Women living in underprivileged areas are 20% more likely to experience fertility complications compared to those living in more affluent neighbourhoods, a new study has revealed.

Researchers from Oregon State University examined the fertility of more than 6,000 women to assess how easy it was for them to conceive a baby.

During the study, the team of academics compared the participants’ ability to conceive with their ‘area deprivation index’ score, which calculates the number of socio-economic resources available in their neighbourhood.

They discovered that the participants living in less affluent areas struggled more to conceive when compared to the women from privileged communities.

Main author Mary Willis said: “The world of fertility research is beginning to examine factors associated with the built environment.

“There are dozens of studies looking at how your neighbourhood environment is associated with adverse birth outcomes, but the pre-conception period is heavily under-studied from a structural standpoint. Turns out, before you’re even conceived, there may be things affecting your health.”

She added: “The concept that your neighbourhood affects your fertility hasn’t been studied in depth.

“In addition, the world of infertility research is largely focused on individual factors, so when I came into this study as an environmental epidemiologist, I was thinking we should look at it as a structural problem.”

Throughout the year-long trial, each participant completed virtual questionnaires on symptoms of their menstrual cycle and whether or not they were pregnant. More than 3,700 pregnancies were reported during the study.

To measure an individual’s area deprivation index score, the scientists looked at several socio-economic factors, such as housing, employment, poverty and educational attainment.

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

Read the study in full in the journal Jama Network Open.

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