A prospective cohort study of endometriosis and subsequent risk of infertility

J. Prescott, L. V. Farland, D. K. Tobias, A. J. Gaskins, D. Spiegelman, J. E. Chavarro, J. W. Rich-Edwards, R. L. Barbieri, S. A. Missmer

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95 Scopus citations


Study question: Is there a temporal relationship between endometriosis and infertility? summary answer: Endometriosis is associated with a higher risk of subsequent infertility, but only among women age ,35 years. what is known already: Endometriosis is the most commonly observed gynecologic pathology among infertile women undergoing laparoscopic examination. Whether endometriosis is a cause of infertility or an incidental discovery during the infertility examination is unknown. study design, size, duration: This study included data collected from58 427 married premenopausal female nurses ,40 years of age from 1989 to 2005, who are participants of the Nurses' Health Study II prospective cohort. participants/materials, setting, methods: Our exposure was laparoscopically confirmed endometriosis. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to calculate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for infertility risk (defined as attempting to conceive for .12 months) among women with and without endometriosis. main results and the role of chance: We identified 4612 incident cases of infertility due to any cause over 362 219 personyears of follow-up. Compared with women without a history of endometriosis, women with endometriosis had an age-adjusted 2-fold increased risk of incident infertility (HR = 2.12, 95% CI = 1.76'2.56) that attenuated slightly after accounting for parity. The relationship with endometriosis was only observed among women ,35 years of age (multivariate HR ,35 years = 1.77, 95% CI = 1.46-2.14; multivariate HR 35'39 years = 1.20, 95% CI = 0.94'1.53; P-interaction = 0.008). Risk of primary versus secondary infertility was similar subsequent to endometriosis diagnosis. Among women with primary infertility, 50% became parous after the endometriosis diagnosis, and among all women with endometriosis, 83% were parous by age 40 years. limitations, reasons for caution: We did not have information on participants' intentions to conceive, but by restricting the analytic population to married women we increased the likelihood that pregnancieswere planned (and therefore infertility would be recognized). Women in our cohort with undiagnosed asymptomatic endometriosis will be misclassified as unexposed.However, the small proportion of these womenare diluted among the.50 000womenaccurately classified as endometriosis-free, minimizing the impact of exposure misclassification on the effect estimates. wider implications of the findings: This study supports a temporal association between endometriosis and infertility risk. Our prospective analysis indicates a possible detection bias in previous studies, with our findings suggesting that the infertility risk posed by endometriosis is about half the estimates observed in cross-sectional analyses. study funding/competing interests: This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant numbers: UM1 CA176726, HD52473, HD57210, T32DK007703, T32HD060454, K01DK103720).We have no competing interests to declare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1475-1482
Number of pages8
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2016


  • Bias
  • Endometriosis
  • Epidemiology
  • Infertility
  • Prospective cohort studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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