Is human fecundity changing? A discussion of research and data gaps precluding us from having an answer

Melissa M. Smarr, Katherine J. Sapra, Alison Gemmill, Linda G. Kahn, Lauren A. Wise, Courtney D. Lynch, Pam Factor-Litvak, Sunni L. Mumford, Niels E. Skakkebaek, Rémy Slama, Danelle T. Lobdell, Joseph B. Stanford, Tina Kold Jensen, Elizabeth Heger Boyle, Michael L. Eisenberg, Paul J. Turek, Rajeshwari Sundaram, Marie E. Thoma, Germaine M.Buck Louis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Fecundity, the biologic capacity to reproduce, is essential for the health of individuals and is, therefore, fundamental for understanding human health at the population level. Given the absence of a population (bio)marker, fecundity is assessed indirectly by various individual-based (e.g. semen quality, ovulation) or couple-based (e.g. time-to-pregnancy) endpoints. Population monitoring of fecundity is challenging, and often defaults to relying on rates of births (fertility) or adverse outcomes such as genitourinary malformations and reproductive site cancers. In light of reported declines in semen quality and fertility rates in some global regions among other changes, the question as to whether human fecundity is changing needs investigation. We review existing data and novel methodological approaches aimed at answering this question from a transdisciplinary perspective. The existing literature is insufficient for answering this question; we provide an overview of currently available resources and novel methods suitable for delineating temporal patterns in human fecundity in future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-504
Number of pages6
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. All rights reserved.


  • Epidemiology
  • Fecundity
  • Fertility
  • Gynecologic diseases
  • Time-to-pregnancy
  • Urologic diseases

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