Random process analysis could give a woman more information about which infertility treatment is best

March 6, 2017, Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University
Dr. Arni S.R. Srinivasa Rao, a mathematical modeler in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the Medical College of Georgia AND Dr. Michael P. Diamond, reproductive endocrinologist, chairman of the MCG Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology both at Augusta University. Credit: Phil Jones

It's been used to study automobile cruise control systems and population growth of certain animal species, and now researchers think Markov modeling could one day help a woman and her physician better peruse infertility treatment options.

Markov modeling is a complex analysis process that in this case may be able to transform a series of relevant facts - like a woman's age, body weight and AMH blood levels, which help predict the egg supply - into a more realistic, real time picture of how successful a particular will be for her, said Dr. Arni S.R. Srinivasa Rao, a mathematical modeler in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

Unlike current methods for providing insight on the success rate of a given treatment, the Markov model provides a dynamic snapshot that can be continuously updated and easily translated into a physician-friendly app, said Rao, corresponding author of the study in the journal Reproductive Sciences.

Infertility treatment can often be a long-term, economically and emotionally costly process for women and their families. With multiple factors causing infertility - some of which remain unknown - and women of many different ages seeking treatment, Markov modeling could help women and their physicians further fine tune the decision-making process, said Dr. Michael P. Diamond, reproductive endocrinologist, chairman of the MCG Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and William H. Brooks, M.D., Distinguished Chair.

"This basically helps provide more personalized information based on the unique characteristics of that individual," said study-author Diamond. "We are able to identify more accurately who has a better chance of being successful."

The type of details that could be plugged into the Markov model already exist, they just have to be gathered and put into the matrix, a series of rows and columns frequently used to analyze scientific data, Rao said. In fact, the two researchers are finalizing a grant proposal that will enable collection of the data from the federal Reproductive Medicine Network, which enables large clinical trials that improve the diagnosis and treatment of reproductive health issues such as female infertility.

The researchers note the Markov approach likely won't work for some medical situations where a timely snapshot doesn't provide sufficient insight, such as diabetes where the patient's history definitely matters. But their published study is proof of concept that it definitely should work for infertility treatment, Rao said.

While you can Google the percent chance of ovulating and then getting pregnant with clomiphene citrate for example, a frontline infertility therapy, those success rates more traditionally are based on regression analysis, which essentially estimates the relationship among certain key variables. But, unlike the Markov model, it doesn't predict the probability of a desired outcome, like infertility treatment's bottom line of a live, healthy birth, Rao said.

To describe the random but time-sensitive analysis, Wikipedia uses studies of the dietary habits of a creature that only eats grapes, cheese or lettuce - but still likes to shakes things up in terms of not eating the same thing two days in a row. That is where timeliness comes in to this model: the creature's choice for what it eats tomorrow depends on what it ate today, rather than say, six months ago.

Diamond uses what is perhaps a more widely digestible analogy: How ESPN continued throughout the recent Super Bowl to project a winner based on varying dynamics in the game. In the recent championship, the likelihood the Atlanta Falcons would win got as high as 98 percent at one late point, but dramatically dropped off as the New England Patriots started moving the ball and putting points on the scoreboard.

Markov modeling is named after Russian mathematician Andrey Markov, who published the first paper on the process in 1906. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development helped fund this research. Rao also has joint appointments in the AU Department of Mathematics and the MCG Department of Medicine's Section of Infectious Diseases. Diamond also is senior vice president for research at Augusta University and associate dean for research at the medical school.

Explore further: Novel tool informs women about elective egg freezing

Related Stories

Novel tool informs women about elective egg freezing

February 7, 2017
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine lifted the experimental status for egg freezing in October 2012, and since then the popularity of elective egg freezing has been on the rise. Although primarily intended for ...

Infertility risk posed by endometriosis may be half of previous estimation

May 17, 2016
About 5 to 10 percent of the general female population is affected with endometriosis, and a higher prevalence is found among women with infertility. Although endometriosis is commonly observed in women who are infertile, ...

Standard treatment better than proposed alternative for unexplained infertility

September 23, 2015
Treatment with clomiphene, a standard therapy for couples with unexplained infertility, results in more live births than treatment with a potential alternative, letrozole, according to a study of more than 900 couples conducted ...

Understanding risks, refining treatments can reduce heartbreak of infertility

June 6, 2016
About 15 percent of couples in the United States suffer from infertility, which is when a couple has tried to become pregnant for a year without success. Infertility comes as a shock to many couples that have spent years ...

Recommended for you

Prolonged acetaminophen use during pregnancy linked to increased ASD and ADHD risk

April 24, 2018
A study from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem sheds new light on the possible relationship between prolonged use of acetaminophen (paracetamol) during pregnancy and the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood.

Though most prolapse surgeries regress over time, symptoms remain improved

April 17, 2018
An estimated one in three women in the U.S. has a pelvic floor disorder, a condition that often develops after bearing children and getting older. These disorders can lead to incontinence, painful intercourse and even the ...

Painkillers in pregnancy may affect baby's future fertility

April 16, 2018
Taking painkillers during pregnancy could affect the fertility of the unborn child in later life, research suggests.

Mom's marijuana winds up in breast milk

April 10, 2018
(HealthDay)—Breast-feeding has known benefits for both baby and mom, but if a new mom also smokes marijuana, does the drug turn up in her breast milk?

Like babies, eggs send signals when 'hungry'

April 9, 2018
In humans and other mammals, the female reproductive cells - the eggs or oocytes - need nourishment in order to grow and remain fertile. It is known that the egg gets its food from little arm-like feeding tubes (called filopodia) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.