Research in the Centre for Fertility and Health
Our overarching goal is to advance the understanding of the factors that influence fertility and elucidate the social and biological pathways through which fertility affects health across the lifespan.
In the last few decades we have witnessed marked changes in patterns of fertility and family structure in rich countries. These include increasing age at childbirth, a lower number of children born to each woman or man, more use of assisted reproductive technology (ART), higher frequency of family disruptions and increasingly complex family structures.
Elucidation of the complex biological and social causal mechanisms requires broad expertise. The multidisciplinary research team at Centre for Fertility and Health consists of epidemiologists, geneticists, physicians, psychologists, demographers, statisticians, sociologists and economists from Norway and abroad. Our research can be described in six integrated themes of research. Most of our research projects and activities are intertwined and integrated parts in several of these main themes.
Our research themes:
Maternal and paternal age
Age is perhaps the most important predictor of fertility and health. Maternal and paternal age influence the ability to become pregnant and has consequences for pregnancy outcomes and for health. Aging processes differ between individuals, as some appear to age faster and some slower than people of the same chronological age.
Our research is at the forefront of developing biological aging clocks, which we use to study how differences in chronological and biological age are associated with fecundity, fertility and risk of disease.
We investigate the impact of maternal and paternal age at childbirth on subfertility, pregnancy outcomes, and consequences for parental and child health. We also analyse the factors behind the increasing age at childbearing.
- To understand how maternal and paternal age affect pregnancy outcomes and children’s health through social and biological mechanisms.
- To improve biological clocks of ageing, including gestational age clocks, and to use them in ongoing research on fertility and ageing.
- To understand which factors influence age at childbearing in young adults today.
Infertility, subfertility and assisted reproductive technologies
Assisted reproductive technologies can help many subfertile couples to become pregnant. Studies indicate that children conceived with assisted reproductive technologies are at increased risk of some adverse health outcomes in childhood and young adulthood. However, whether this is related to the technologies themselves or to underlying heritable aspects of subfertility is difficult to disentangle.
We use genetic, epigenetic and registry data to investigate causes and consequences of infertility and health consequences of subfertility and assisted reproductive technologies in parents and children.
- To investigate the social and biological causes and consequences of subfertility and the use of assisted reproductive technologies.
- To understand the nature of the relationships between infertility, various diseases, and health status.
- To understand how genetic influences and epigenetic differences are associated with subfertility and the use of assisted reproductive technologies in parents and children.
Fetal life, adolescence and fertility outcomes
Starting with conception and fetal life, we investigate how factors in early life affect maturation, puberty, later fertility and health. Central topics include educational pathways, mental health in social interactions and partner formation.
In the last decades there has been a steep increase in gender dysphoria. We need to understand both social and biological aspects of this increase. We will investigate whether environmental substances in fetal life can disturb development and influence sexual identity.
- To understand causes and consequences of gender differences in school performance and examine whether they are explained by differences in timing of physical maturity between girls and boys.
- To understand the interplay between education, labour market participation, family formation and health.
- To understand how social, biological and psychological forces shape the emerging fertility patterns in young adults, and investigate the role of social and biomedical factors on low fertility.
- To understand the short and long-term consequences of medication use and endocrine disrupting substances in pregnancy.
Fertility, family structure and transmission of health across generations
We investigate the causes and health consequences of various aspects of fertility such as number of children, number of siblings, childlessness, age at first birth, birth intervals, union formation and dissolution.
We analyse determinants and health effects of union formation and dissolution, which are closely linked with fertility
We explore how health and disease are transmitted across generations.
- To understand how fertility, union formation and union dissolution is related to health of children and adults.
- To understand how socioeconomic and ideational factors affect reproduction among women and men.
- To understand the role of mental health in the reproduction of socioeconomic differences.
- To understand associations in occurrence of pregnancy outcomes, health and disease across generations.
New statistical methods for analysing family and transgenerational data
We develop novel advanced statistical models to analyse genetic data from large-scale genome-wide association studies, integrating SNP and methylation data, and focusing on nuclear families and transgenerational data.
A large number of projects at the Centre will also benefit from extending methodology such as time-to-event data, correlated data, and multilevel data to studies of pregnancy and fertility-related outcomes within families.
- To develop and extend methods to analyse large-scale genetic association data, particularly in nuclear families and outcomes related to the use of artificial reproductive technologies.
- Develop and investigate new ways to define and measure heritability and intergenerational transmission of health.
- Develop new, general methodology for analysing correlated and multilevel data.
- Extend time-to-event methodology to comprehensively analyse pregnancy outcomes under time-dependent exposure.
- Introduce and apply novel methods to analyse COVID-19 and other infectious disease data to provide real-time descriptions and short-term predictions of disease spread.
Covid and its implication on young adults, education, partner formations and fertility
The COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on health, living conditions, education and fertility. Pregnant women were especially vulnerable and at higher risk of adverse outcomes. People had an abrupt change in social interactions, work life and lifestyle changes. A surprising surge in births was seen 9 months after lockdown. However, a current corresponding downswing in births is now observed.
We study the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health, living conditions, education and fertility.
- To explore the underlying causes in the changing fertility patterns during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
- To understand the role of long COVID in fertility and pregnancy.
- To examine whether effects of the pandemic vary across social strata and contribute to larger social inequalities in fertility and health.
- To understand how the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccinations have affected pregnancy outcomes and the health of pregnant women and their offspring.
We make use of the unique Norwegian infrastructure of registries, cohorts and biobanks. The nationwide registries in Norway and other Nordic countries have been extensively used for medical and social science research. At the Centre for Fertility and Health we will take a long step beyond the current practice by integrating information from a large number of different registries with additional linkages to several surveys and cohort studies.
- The Norwegian Population Registry
- National Historical Population Register for Norway
- Statistics Norway
- The Medical Birth Registry
- The Cause of Death Registry
- The Cancer Registry
- The Patient Register
- Primary Care reimbursement data
- Other registries (vaccinations, prescriptions, cardiovascular diseases, infectious diseases, various quality registries)