Global Rates of In­fer­til­ity Re­main Un­changed Over Past 2 Decades

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In 2010, al­most 50 mil­lion cou­ples world­wide were un­able to have a child af­ter five years of try­ing. In­fer­til­ity rates have hardly changed over the past 20 years, ac­cord­ing to a study by in­ter­na­tional re­searchers pub­lished in a re­cent is­sue of PLOS Medicine.

In an anal­y­sis of 277 national sur­veys, the au­thors, led by Gretchen Stevens from the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, es­ti­mated the lev­els and trends of in­fer­til­ity in 190 coun­tries from 1990 to 2010. They found that in 2010, 1.9% of women aged 20 years who wanted to have chil­dren were un­able to have their first live birth (pri­mary in­fer­til­ity), and 10.5% of women who had pre­vi­ously given birth were un­able to have an­other baby (sec­ondary in­fer­til­ity) -- a to­tal of 48.5 mil­lion cou­ples. The au­thors found that the lev­els of in­fer­til­ity were sim­i­lar in 1990 and 2010, with only a slight over­all de­crease in pri­mary in­fer­til­ity (0.1%, but with a more pro­nounced drop in Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa and South Asia) and a small in­crease in sec­ondary in­fer­til­ity (0.4%). The au­thors found that pri­mary in­fer­til­ity rates among women want­ing to have chil­dren also var­ied by re­gion, rang­ing from 1.5% in Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean in 2010, to 2.6% in North Africa and the Mid­dle East. Fur­ther­more, with a few ex­cep­tions, global and coun­try pat­terns of sec­ondary in­fer­til­ity were sim­i­lar to those of pri­mary in­fer­til­ity. The au­thors say: "In­de­pen­dent from pop­u­la­tion growth and world­wide de­clines in the pre­ferred num­ber of chil­dren, we found lit­tle ev­i­dence of changes in in­fer­til­ity over two decades, apart from in the re­gions of Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa and South Asia." The au­thors con­tinue: "In the ab­sence of wide­spread data col­lec­tion on time to preg­nancy, the meth­ods used and re­sults pre­sented here pro­vide valu­able in­sights into global, re­gional, and coun­try pat­terns and trends in in­fer­til­ity."

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