Survey Reveals the Scale of Infertility

By Nina Matthews (Flickr: head to head) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

One in eight females and one in ten males have experienced infertility, yet nearly half of these individuals have not received medical help. The new information was discovered through a study of more than 15,000 women and men in Britain and the results were published in Human Reproduction.

The Study

The study discovered that of those who reported experiencing infertility (defined as being unsuccessful at conceiving pregnancy after trying for 12 months or more), 42.7% of women and 46.8% of men didn’t seek medical assistance to fix the problem. Those who did receive help were more likely to have higher educational qualifications, better jobs and among those that did have a baby, to become parents later, compared with those who didn’t get help.

Jessica Datta, a lecturer in the Department of Social and Environmental Health Research at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (London, UK), who led the team of researchers said, “We were surprised that almost half of the people in our study who had experienced infertility had not sought help.”

Ms. Datta and her team analyzed data from 15,162 women and men between the ages of 35-44 years of age and among men aged 35-54. More than a third of women who became mothers aged 35 or older had experienced infertility, compared to fewer than one in ten women who had their first baby before the age of 25 years old.

Infertility was most commonly experienced by individuals who were married or cohabitating at the time they were interviewed for the study, probably reflecting the fact that those in a stable relationship were more likely to have attempted pregnancy and therefore became aware of fertility issues. Experiencing infertility was more common in people with higher socio-economic status, including females and males in managerial, technical or professional employment, compared to people in lower status, routine jobs.

Ms. Datta stated, “One of the important and concerning findings in our study is the difference in educational attainment and job status between people who sought help for infertility and those who did not. Studies of infertility have tended to recruit research participants from medical settings such as general practice, so our population-based survey sample provides a rare insight into those people who, despite having failed to get pregnant after a year of trying, did not seek help from health services. The existence of inequalities in access to healthcare is well established but this is one of few analyses to explore uptake of services for infertility.


Ms. Datta said in conclusion to the study, “Previous research has found associations between undergoing treatment for infertility and sexual dissatisfaction. In our study, symptoms of depression occurred in the two weeks before interview and sexual dissatisfaction in the year before the interview but, as we don’t know when the period of infertility occurred, we cannot make assumptions about causality and are in favor of further investigation into the long term impact of infertility on women’s well-being.”


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