Preprint Article Version 1 This version is not peer-reviewed

Identification of Research Priorities in Infertility and Assisted Reproduction: An International, Multicenter Study in Partnership with Patients

Version 1 : Received: 5 April 2019 / Approved: 8 April 2019 / Online: 8 April 2019 (12:46:17 CEST)

How to cite: García, D.; Lindenberg, F.; Toft, E.; La Marca, A.; Borrás, R.; Lorenzon, A.; Chehin, M.; Silva, L.; Motta, E.; Ripero, M.; Madero, J.; Marinho, R.; Oliveira, C.; Caetano, J.; Bolívar, A.; Brazal, S.; Rodríguez, A.; Vassena, R. Identification of Research Priorities in Infertility and Assisted Reproduction: An International, Multicenter Study in Partnership with Patients. Preprints 2019, 2019040093 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201904.0093.v1). García, D.; Lindenberg, F.; Toft, E.; La Marca, A.; Borrás, R.; Lorenzon, A.; Chehin, M.; Silva, L.; Motta, E.; Ripero, M.; Madero, J.; Marinho, R.; Oliveira, C.; Caetano, J.; Bolívar, A.; Brazal, S.; Rodríguez, A.; Vassena, R. Identification of Research Priorities in Infertility and Assisted Reproduction: An International, Multicenter Study in Partnership with Patients. Preprints 2019, 2019040093 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201904.0093.v1).

Abstract

STUDY QUESTION: Which are the main research interests among patients of assisted reproductive technologies (ART)? SUMMARY ANSWER: Patients identified as research priorities that deserve further investigation: success rates and risks of ART, side-effects of treatments, resources to cope with infertility, effectiveness of alternative therapies, lifestyle habits to protect fertility, oocyte quality and ovarian reserve, and causes of genetic or hereditary infertility. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: The involvement of patients and caregivers in setting research agendas in medicine has gathered significant momentum in the last decade. Patients’ involvement in setting research priorities offers several benefits: improved patient knowledge and awareness of their condition; greater understanding of the medical professionals of the impact of the condition on patients’ quality of life; reduced costs associated with redundant research activities. This is may be also applicable to research in infertility and ART, where patients’ interests have never been explored before. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: This is a cross-sectional study that consists of an anonymous online survey, which was sent up to three times to 2112 patients from 11 fertility centers in 5 countries between January-December 2018. The study design was based on the James Lind Alliance priority setting partnership model, which comprises the identification of patients groups, the exploration of the research agenda, the analysis of collected data and identification of priorities. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Overall, 2112 patients were contacted, and 945 surveys were answered (RR: 44.7%). Patients were asked to identify research questions relevant to them in the areas of infertility causes and prevention, fertility treatments (medication and ART), and the emotional aspects of infertility. Answers were categorized in topics and ranked by frequency. A long list of the top-30 research topics was extracted from the aggregate results, from which, a short list of the top-10 research topics was created. At the end, 10 research questions related to each of the 10 research topics were constructed, based on the answers given by patients. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Female (845, 89.4%) and male (100, 10.6%) patients were included. The mean age of patients was 37.8 (SD 1.74). Most of the patients did not have children at the time of the survey (523, 59%), while 51 (5.7%) were pregnant. Sixty (6.3%) patients did not start treatment, 579 (61.3%) were performing a treatment with their own gametes and 304 (32.2%) were treated through gamete donation. Patients were mainly interested in the effectiveness of ART -especially per clinical profile-, side effects of drugs, protection of fertility and prevention of infertility –especially through diet and exercise-, and psychological aspects of the infertility journey. The top-10 research questions (and weight) obtained were: 1) What are the side-effects of ART treatments? (41.6%); 2) What are the most effective methods to cope with infertility from the psychological point of view? (37.2%); 3) What effects could diet have on fertility? (25.9%); 4) What are ART success rates per clinical profile? (25.9%); 5) Are there habits and lifestyle factors that could prevent infertility? (20.0%); 6) What are the long-term risks associated to ART? (18.5%); 7) Are alternative therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, and meditation effective to treat/prevent infertility? (18.5%); 8) What is the impact of exercise on fertility? (15.4%); 9) How does oocytes quantity and quality affect fertility? (9.5%); 10) What are the genetic patterns or hereditary conditions causing/related to infertility? (9.5%). LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Although all respondents had attended a fertility center, not all of them were diagnosed as infertile (i.e. single women) and had started treatment at the time of response, while a few were pregnant; their priorities for research might have been influenced by their infertility journey. Also, all participants attended private fertility centers: areas of interest may be different in public settings. WIDER IMPLICATIONS FOR THE FINDINGS: Researchers and clinicians should keep in mind that, in addition to improvement of treatments’ success rates and side-effects, patients greatly value research on causes, prevention and emotional aspects of infertility. As their views might differ from those of medical professionals, patients’ voices should be incorporated in setting infertility research priorities.

Subject Areas

Patients involvement; research interests; ART treatments; treatment personalization; psychological effects; healthy habits; fertility protection; infertility prevention; lifestyle; diet

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