March 5, 2024

Will IVF reverse falling birth rates?

 With birth rates in Europe sinking to unprecedented lows, one country seems to have bucked the trend. At the moment Denmark has a birth rate of 1.9, almost replacement level. And the difference seems to be the incredible popularity of IVF there. Nearly 1 Danish baby in 20 is an test-tube baby. IVF is widely accepted, receives big government subsidies and waiting times for treatment are short.

Austrian demographers studied Danish birth rates and concluded that with IVF included in their analysis, the birth rate was steady. Without it, it declined to below 1.8 children per woman. Since an important reason for declining birth rates is delayed child bearing, this suggests that making IVF readily available for women over 35 helps to keep the birth rate up.

Their findings support a discussion paper from the think tank RAND Europe which argued last year that IVF might help raise European birth rates. However this was just one of a range of policy measures which governments ought to consider and one which would have to be used with great discretion, the Rand analysts warned. If IVF became even more available, an uptick in the birth rate could be offset by an increase in women delaying child-bearing until it was too late even for an IVF birth.