Statistics statistics – infertility and treatment – who to believe?

Did you know?? Over 1% of all infants born in the US are conceived using Assisted Reproductive Technology*.

Luckily I am an analyst by trade, so I am quite aware of the lies, damn lies and statistics.  I am quite skeptical when it comes to stats that don’t explain the data source.  A lot of websites quote stats and don’t tell you either where the data originated, how it was collected or how it was analysed.  So which stats can you believe?

I am undertaking a small project for an online course in data science – part of my project is to develop an online app.  The app can be anything I like, but it has to be an interactive tool using data.  Seeing as I have been looking at lots of statistics online about fertility treatments, I thought, why not design my own web app that allows a user to interact with all that data out there?  Hmmmm perhaps I am being ambitious.  But I have a couple of weeks to complete it – so lets see!  In the mean time, I have been doing some research on potential data sources…

The most up to date fertility treatment data I have found so far is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  (Ha! I didn’t expect to find the data here!!)  Apparently there is an Act that mandates all clinics performing Assisted Reproductive Technology to provide annual data to the CDC.  I think this data is THE most comprehensive (or certainly largest) source of data to understand the factors that contribute to a successful birth when using Assisted Reproductive Technology*.  The CDC has been collecting data since 1995.  All their data is freely available to download along with reports and interactive tables.  The most recent data released is from 2012, collected from 256 clinics with in the US.

When I was reading the CDC 2012 report that was published in 2014 I found an interesting stat that surprised me – In 2010 about 7.4 million women aged 15-44 received infertility services at some time in their lives.  That makes it about one in ten women of that age group.   If I look at all my friends and family on my facebook in that age group, that could be 12 of my friends affected somehow.  Woah.

Anyway, the data provided by the CDC gives stats on almost 98% of clinics in the US.  The link below (provided by the CDC website) takes you to an interactive tool that allows you to see the data for your fertility clinic – they probably report it on their website.  But you have to be careful when you look at the numbers and what they all mean.  I’d highly recommend reading the whole report to help understand it all.  I did not see this data before we decided which clinic to use.  To be honest the number of choices for us weren’t particularly big, but we did have a choice.

The data looks good for my project, I just need some ideas on how to make a useful app out of it.  If anyone has any suggestions on what they think would be a useful way to see the data I’d be interested to hear from you.  I’ll keep you updated on my stats research as I come across it…

Ps. Hope this post wasn’t too geeky!! I can be quite geeky sometimes.

View the latest U.S. Fertility Clinic Data

*Note. The CDC define Artificial Reproductive technology as a procedure that involves surgically removing eggs from a woman’s ovaries, combining them with sperm in the laboratory, and returning then to the woman’s body or donating them to another woman.  They do NOT include treatments in which only sperm are handled (ie. IUI) or procedures in which woman takes drugs only to stimulate egg production without the intention of having eggs surgically retrieved.


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