"Millions of people face catastrophic health care costs after seeking treatment for infertility, making this a major equity issue and all too often, a medical poverty trap for those affected,” said Dr. Pascale Allotey, Director of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research at the World Health Organization. “Better policies and public financing can significantly improve access to treatment and protect poorer households from falling into poverty as a result.”
For men, infertility is most commonly caused by problems in the ejection of semen, absence or low levels of sperm, or abnormal shape and movement of the sperm, the WHO said. For women, it is most commonly caused by abnormalities in the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes and the endocrine system, according to the WHO.
The World Health Organization released updated statistics indicating that 1 in 6 people across the world are affected by infertility.
The global health organization said on Tuesday that there is an “urgent need to increase access to affordable, high-quality fertility care for those in need.” The WHO noted that most fertility treatments are funded out-of-pocket.
The report found that adults living in high-income countries were slightly more likely to suffer from infertility. However, the WHO stated that those living in low-income countries spend a higher percentage of their income on fertility treatment.
“The report reveals an important truth: infertility does not discriminate,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General at WHO. “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 for those who seek it.”
The WHO defines infertility as a failure to become pregnant after 12 months of regular unprotected sex.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 19% of women in the US ages 15-49 who have not had a past birth are unable to get pregnant within 12 months of trying.