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Massachusetts Department of Public Health seal Massachusetts Environmental Public Health Tracking

Fertility refers to the ability to have live children and is measured by the total fertility rate.

Changes in the geographic pattern of fertility rates can provide basic descriptive clues into how environmental exposures may influence the changing patterns. As more information is learned about the potential link between environmental exposures and fertility, educational outreach programs and other interventions can target these populations to help eliminate environmental exposures that may be causing low fertility rates.

Risk factors associated with a woman’s infertility include:

  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Being overweight or underweight
  • Too much exercise
  • Caffeine intake
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Health problems that cause hormonal changes
Did You Know?

One out of every six couples has trouble conceiving and/or carrying a child to term.

Source: CDC Division of Reproductive Health 2013

Environmental contaminants, including endocrine disruptors, certain solvents, phthalates, dioxin, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and the compound benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) may be major contributors to women's infertility.

A man's health can affect fertility as well. The number produced and quality of a man's sperm can be affected by his overall health and lifestyle. Risk factors that may reduce sperm number and quality include:

  • Alcohol use
  • Illicit drug use
  • Smoking
  • Age
  • Medication
  • Radiation treatment or chemotherapy for cancer

Environmental contaminants, including pesticides (for example, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or DDT), dioxin, and PCBs may be major contributors to men's infertility.

Data Considerations

When reviewing and interpreting fertility data, it is important to take into consideration the following:

  • The fertility measure is influenced by social/demographic choices for reproduction, maternal age, parity, and social class measures as well as the use of contraception and infertility treatments leading to multiple births. These factors all may lead to variations in overall fertility across populations and geographic locations and therefore social and demographic factors would need to be controlled for to examine any environmental effects on total fertility.
  • The total fertility rate (TFR) may not be specific enough to track specific changes related to environmental risk factors; however, this measure can be used with other measures, including measures of ambient concentrations of pollutants, to look for potential associations with population level changes in fertility and generate some well informed hypotheses or areas for future investigations.
  • The data presented are based on the location of the residence at the time of birth or death. The place of residence or potential exposure during gestation or at the time of conception when an exposure that may have affected the outcome could have occurred, may be different.

For additional information, please read the FAQ

Available Data on Fertility

Use the Explore Maps & Tables link on this page to access the following measure for fertility in your community. The most current available data will be shown. Be sure to check the site periodically as new data is added each year. To protect privacy, no information is shown that could identify an individual.

  • Annual total fertility rate per 1,000 women of reproductive age by community, county, and statewide

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