Large numbers of people are affected by infertility in their lifetime, according to a new report published the World Health Organization. Around 17.5% of the adult population – roughly 1 in 6 worldwide – experience infertility.
The new estimates suggest that infertility is a global problem, with rates comparable for high-, middle- and low-income countries. Lifetime prevalence was 17.8% in high-income countries and 16.5% in low- and middle-income countries.
“The report reveals an important truth: infertility does not discriminate,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General at WHO. “The sheer proportion of people affected show the need to widen access to fertility care and ensure this issue is no longer sidelined in health research and policy, so that safe, effective, and affordable ways to attain parenthood are available for those who seek it.”
The WHO defines infertility as failure to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.
The WHO echoes calls by the IVF industry for more funding for infertile couples. It says: “Despite the magnitude of the issue, solutions for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infertility – including assisted reproductive technology such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) – remain underfunded and inaccessible to many due to high costs, social stigma and limited availability.”
“Millions of people face catastrophic healthcare costs after seeking treatment for infertility, making this a major equity issue and all too often, a medical poverty trap for those affected,” said Dr Pascale Allotey, WHO Director of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research. “Better policies and public financing can significantly improve access to treatment and protect poorer households from falling into poverty as a result.”