One in every six persons globally experiences infertility and would be unable to conceive, a new report published by World Health Organisation (WHO) has found.
The global agency analysed 133 existing studies, which included data from 1990 to 2021, to come up with the estimate.
To this end, WHO called for greater policy prioritisation, access to infertility services and better evidence to address treatment issues.
In the new report, the projection that around 17.5 per cent of global adult population – or one in six people worldwide would be affected by infertility in their lifetime – called for urgency to increase access to affordable, high-quality fertility care for those in need.
The new estimates show limited variation in prevalence of infertility among regions. The rates are comparable for high-, middle- and low-income countries, indicating that they are a major health challenge globally.
Lifetime prevalence was 17.8 per cent in high-income countries and 16.5 per cent in low- and middle-income nations.
Infertility is a disease of the male or female reproductive system, defined by the failure to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. It can cause significant distress, stigma and financial hardship that affect people’s mental and psychosocial well-being.
Despite the magnitude of the issue, solutions for prevention, diagnosis and treatment, including assisted reproductive technology such as in vitro fertilisation remain underfunded and inaccessible to many due to high costs, social stigma and limited availability.
“At present, in most countries, fertility treatments are largely funded out of pocket – often resulting in devastating financial costs. People in the poorest countries spend a greater proportion of their income on fertility care compared to people in wealthier countries. High costs frequently prevent people from accessing infertility treatments or can catapult them into poverty as a consequence of seeking care,” WHO said in a statement.
Commenting on the issues, the global organisation’s Director General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, noted that the report revealed an important truth that infertility does not discriminate.
“Millions face catastrophic healthcare costs after seeking infertility treatment, making this a major equity issue and all too often, a medical poverty trap for those affected,” said Director of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research at WHO, Dr Pascale Allotey.