The World Health Organization just released a new report that coincides with National Infertility Awareness Week. Almost 18% of the global adult population–which averages to 1 in 6 individuals worldwide–are impacted by infertility in their lifetime, regardless of biological sex, socioeconomic status, or location. Generally speaking, infertility is defined as being unable to conceive after one year (or longer) of unprotected sex. Some providers evaluate and treat women aged 35 years or older after 6 months of unprotected sex, since fertility in females is known to decline steadily with age. While infertility affects males and females at nearly equal rates, it is often associated with a women’s health issue, which can be both isolating and frustrating. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General at WHO reflects, “The report reveals an important truth: 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.”
“Subfertility” generally describes any form of reduced fertility with prolonged time of unwanted non-conception, in other words–taking longer to conceive than hoped or planned for–which is an incredibly common, yet still taboo, scenario for those on their family building journeys. Struggling with infertility is also a risk factor toward developing a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) later on, due to emotional distress and social stigma that it can carry, along with the financial burden of high out of pocket costs of assisted reproductive technology like in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Dr Pascale Allotey, Director of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research at WHO states, "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.“Better policies and public financing can significantly improve access to treatment and protect poorer households from falling into poverty as a result.” Clearly, there is an urgent need to increase both awareness and access to affordable, high-quality fertility care for those who seek it.
Post by Sharon Itkoff Nacache ATR-BC LCAT LPAT PMH-C
Original photo by Everton Vila via Unsplash