Diabetes, medical comorbidities and couple fecundity

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Abstract

STUDY QUESTION

What is the relationship between couple's health and fecundity in a preconception cohort?

SUMMARY ANSWER

Somatic health may impact fecundity in men and women as couples whose male partner had diabetes or whose female partner had two or more medical conditions had a longer time-to-pregnancy (TTP).

WHAT IS ALREADY KNOWN

The impact of somatic health on human fecundity is hypothesized given the reported declines in spermatogenesis and ovulation among individuals with certain medical comorbidities.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION

A population-based prospective cohort study recruiting couples from 16 counties in Michigan and Texas (2005–2009) using sampling frameworks allowing for identification of couples planning pregnancy in the near future. Five hundred and one couples desiring pregnancy and discontinuing contraception were followed-up for 12 months or until a human chorionic gonadotropin pregnancy was detected.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTINGS, METHODS

In all, 33 (21.4%) female and 41 (26.6%) male partners had medical conditions at baseline.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE

Couples’ medical comorbidity was associated with pregnancy status. Diabetes in either partner was associated with diminished fecundity, as measured by a longer TTP. Specifically, fecundability odds ratios (FORs) were below 1, indicating a longer TTP, for male partners with diabetes (0.35, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.14–0.86) even in adjusted models (0.35, 95% CI: 0.13–0.88). Female partners with diabetes had comparable reductions in FORs; however, the analyses did not reach statistical significance (0.26, 95% CI: 0.03–1.98). Female partners with two or more medical conditions had a significantly longer TTP compared with women with no health problems (0.36, 95% CI: 0.14–0.92). Importantly, the presence of medical conditions was not associated with sexual frequency. We cannot rule out residual confounding, Type 2 errors for less prevalent medical conditions, or chance findings in light of the multiple comparisons made in the analysis.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION

The findings require cautious interpretation given that medical diagnoses are subject to possible reporting errors, although we are unaware of any potential biases that may have been introduced, as participants were unaware of how long it would take to become pregnant upon enrollment.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS

The current report suggests a relationship between male and female diabetes and fecundity, and possibly somatic health more globally. Moreover, while the mechanism is uncertain, if corroborated, our data suggest that early evaluation and treatment may be warranted for diabetics prior to attempting to conceive.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S)

Intramural research of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Contract nos. #N01-HD-3-3355, N01-HD-3-3356 and N01-HD-3-3358). The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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