By Chris D. Meletis, N.D.
In your journey to get pregnant, you will likely start to hear terms like “fertility rate,” “pregnancy rate,” and “live birth rate.” My patients often find these terms confusing—and with good cause. At first glance they seem as if they should mean the same thing. But there is a subtle difference between fertility rate versus pregnancy rate versus live birth rate. In this article, I will explain that difference.
Fertility rate is broken up into two different measurements: total fertility rate and general fertility rate. Total fertility rate is an estimate of the number of children a woman would have if at a given age her behavior matched the average of the women at that same age. It is an estimate of lifetime fertility. In other words, it is a theoretical measure of how many children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime. This number is based upon current age-specific fertility rates.
General fertility rate, on the other hand, is the number of live babies born per 1,000 women of childbearing age, which is usually defined as 15 to 44 years old. To calculate the general fertility rate for the U.S., for example, you would divide the number of live births by the population of women ages 15 to 44 and multiply that by 1,000. The general fertility rate has declined most years since 2008 and in 2018 it hit a record low of 59.1 births for every 1,000 women of childbearing age.1 This drop is often attributed to the 2008 recession.
Pregnancy Rate Versus Fertility Rate
Pregnancy rate refers to the rate of successful pregnancies. It is the percentage of attempts that result in pregnancy. This term is often used in studies showing whether attempts using artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization (IVF) lead to pregnancy. It can also be used in studies investigating whether certain dietary supplements are successful at improving pregnancy rates.
Difference Between Live Birth Rate and Pregnancy Rate
Live birth rate is the percentage of all attempts that lead to successful births. It is the pregnancy rate adjusted for miscarriages and stillbirths. Researchers often use the live birth rate as a measurement of success of IVF. Some dietary supplements such as folate, D-chiro-inositol, and myo-inositol have also improved the live birth rate in clinical studies.2,3
What It Means To Increase Fertility
Worldwide, in the past 60 years, there has been a 50% drop in the number of children born per woman.4 Much of this decline is due to personal choice. But more and more, couples are finding it difficult to become pregnant. Scientists believe environmental toxins are at least in part to blame for this decrease in fertility.4
If you are trying to get pregnant, it is essential to understand how fertile you and your partner are and identify your unique issues in order to increase chances of successful fertilization. In other words, your likelihood of conceiving and having a healthy baby is specific to any issues preventing a healthy sperm from fertilizing a healthy egg. A number of factors play a role in determining your fertility. These include sperm parameters such as count, motility and morphology, ovarian reserve (the number of eggs a woman has available), and egg quality. Keeping your body healthy by reducing stress levels and avoiding exposure to environmental toxins can go a long way to increase your fertility. Taking an antioxidant supplement to protect the sperm and egg from free radical damage can also increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
The Bottom Line
The differences between fertility rate versus pregnancy rate versus live birth rate are good to know when reading research about pregnancy – the data will serve as a reminder that you are not alone. However, the most important consideration is learning about ways to boost your own fertility, as each partner is unique and should focus on individualized strategies to augment and optimize their fertility.
About Dr. Meletis
Dr. Meletis is an internationally recognized naturopathic physician, an accomplished author, and respected educator in the field of natural medicine. Dr. Meletis was honored as a ‘Naturopathic Physician of the Year’ by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians for his commitment to education and helping those in need. His mission is simply, “changing the world’s health, one person at a time”.
He has authored 14 books on subjects ranging from natural medicine interactions to fertility enhancement and has published over 80 articles in publications such as Natural Health andNatural Pharmacy. Dr. Meletis has served as the Dean of Naturopathic Medicine and Chief Medical Officer for the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) for seven years and later as the school’s Senior Science Officer. He sits on several medical advisory boards and has worked with Oregon Health and Science University on a grant from the National Institute of Health to further educate MD graduates on natural medicine.
- Hamilton BE, et al. National Center for Health Statistics. Births: Provisional Date for 2018. Report No. 007 Vital Statistics Rapid Release. May 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsrr/vsrr-007-508.pdf
- Huang WJ, et al. Effects of folic acid on oligozoospermia with MTHFR polymorphisms in term of seminal parameters, DNA fragmentation, and live birth rate: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Andrology. 2019 May 24. [Epub ahead of print.]
- Mendoza N, et al. Comparison of the effect of two combinations of myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol in women with polycystic ovary syndrome undergoing ICSI: a randomized controlled trial. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2019 Aug;35(8):695-700.
- Pizzorno J. Environmental Toxins and Infertility. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2018 Apr;17(2):8–11.