Risk factors for female infertility in an agricultural region

Epidemiology. 2003 Jul;14(4):429-36. doi: 10.1097/01.EDE.0000071407.15670.aa.


Background: Recent studies have suggested that agricultural occupations or exposure to pesticides may impair female fertility.

Methods: The Fertility Risk Factor Study retrospectively examined agricultural and residential exposures and the risk of female infertility. Cases and controls (N = 322 each) came from women who sought treatment at a large group medical clinic in Wisconsin. Women and their male partners provided information on health, occupational and lifestyle exposures in response to a telephone interview during 1997-2001.

Results: Mixing and applying herbicides 2 years before attempting conception was more common among infertile women (odds ratio [OR] = 27; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.9-380), as was the use of fungicides (OR = 3.3; CI = 0.8-13). Residing on a farm, ranch or in a rural area during this time period was protective of female fertility. Households supplied with central Wisconsin groundwater were at less risk for infertility than households using municipal sources (OR = 0.6; CI = 0.4-0.9). Behavioral risk factors included alcohol consumption (OR = 1.8; 1.2-2.5), smoking (1.6; 0.9-2.9), passive smoke exposure (1.8; 1.2-2.5), steady weight gain in adult life (3.5; 2.0-6.1), and having a male partner over the age of 40 (4.5; 1.2-16.3). Drinking 3 or more glasses of milk per day was protective of female fertility (0.3; 0.1-0.7).

Conclusion: These results suggest that certain agricultural, residential and lifestyle choices may modify the risk of female infertility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Agriculture*
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / epidemiology
  • Infertility, Female / etiology*
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Pesticides / poisoning*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects
  • Water Supply
  • Weight Gain
  • Wisconsin / epidemiology


  • Pesticides
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution