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Report finds infertility affects one in six people

The cost of treatment can drive people into poverty.

The WHO has released a report that found one in six adults worldwide suffer from infertility.

Infertility is a disorder of the male or female reproductive system in which a person has not used any contraception for more than one year and has had normal sexual intercourse without a successful pregnancy.

The condition can cause distress, stigma and economic hardship which can impact mental and psychosocial health.

The report estimated that the lifetime prevalence of infertility sits at 17.8 percent in high-income countries, with low and middle income countries having a prevalence of 16.5 percent.

It also found that those in the poorest countries spend more money on fertility treatment compared to those in wealthier countries.

Director-General at the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the report is proof that “infertility does not discriminate”.

“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,” he said.

In most countries, fertility treatment is predominantly self-funded.

Due to the high cost of solutions to prevent, diagnose and treat infertility, including assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), the large expenses often prevent people from accessing the treatment and can drive them into poverty as a direct result of seeking treatment.

Director of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research at WHO, Dr Pascale Allotey, said that the high cost of medical treatment for infertility has become a major equity issue.

“Better policies and public financing can significantly improve access to treatment and protect poorer households from falling into poverty as a result,” she said.


Photo: In-vitro fusion of sperm and egg by Manu5 available HERE and used under a Creative Commons license. This image has not been modified.

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