Despite the magnitude of the issue, solutions for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of infertility, 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,” the WHO said in a press statement made available to our correspondent.
The Director General of the global health body, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said the report reveals an important truth – infertility does not discriminate.
“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,” he said.
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“Millions of people 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 the Director of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research at WHO, Dr Pascale Allotey, including the United Nations Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction. “Better policies and public financing can significantly improve access to treatment and protect poorer households from falling into poverty as a result.”
While the new report shows convincing evidence of the high global prevalence of infertility, it highlights a persistent lack of data in many countries and some regions.
It calls for greater availability of national data on infertility disaggregated by age and by cause to help with quantifying infertility, as well as knowing who needs fertility care and how risks can be reduced.
WHO is calling for greater policy prioritisation of infertility.
“We’re calling for greater access to infertility services, and we’re calling for greater evidence, better evidence to be able to address the treatment issues.”