Urgent need to expand access to prevention, diagnosis and treatments; rates of infertility are similar across all countries and regions
At least one in six people worldwide are infertile, a report by the World Health Organization has warned, advocating for better access to fertility care essential for global health. The rates are “comparable” for high, middle and low-income countries, the United Nations health agency said.
Infertility, which affects men and women, is a reproductive condition defined by the failure to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. Infertility Prevalence Estimates, 1990–2021 was published by the WHO on April 4, 2023.
About 17.5 per cent of the global adult population is affected, the WHO found after analysing all relevant studies on infertility from 1990-2021 to compile the new in-depth estimates.
The magnitude of infertility as a global public health issue has been underlined by the report and showed an urgent need to expand access to prevention, diagnosis and treatments.
“The report reveals an important truth — infertility does not discriminate,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.
The sheer proportion of people affected shows 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.
Understanding the magnitude of infertility is critical for developing appropriate interventions, for monitoring access to quality fertility care and for mitigating risk factors for and consequences of infertility, the report said.
The prevalence of infertility, diagnosis and treatment — such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) — remain underfunded and patients find themselves priced out, the WHO said. Many have no choice but to cover the costs out of pocket, often with devastating consequences.
People in the poorest countries spend a greater proportion of their income on fertility care than those in wealthier countries. Infertility is also linked to “distress and stigma”, as well as an increased risk of intimate partner violence, WHO stressed.
Millions of people faced catastrophic healthcare costs after seeking treatment for infertility and all too often, a “medical poverty trap”, said Pascale Allotey, WHO’s director of sexual and reproductive health and research.
“Fertility care is a core part of sexual and reproductive health and responding to infertility can mitigate gender inequality,” WHO’s report noted.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.