New WHO report: infertility present in 1 in 6 adults


The World Health Organization has released estimates showing about 1 in 6 adults worldwide are affected by infertility.

Infertility affects 1 in 6 adults, about 17.5% of the adult population, according to estimates published by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The prevalence of infertility has limited differences between regions, with similar rates among low-, middle-, and high-income countries. Infertility in high-income countries had a lifetime prevalence of 17.8%, while low- and middle-income countries had a prevalence of 16.5%, showing a global health challenge.

“The report reveals an important truth: infertility does not discriminate,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, MS, PhD, director-general at WHO. “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.”

Infertility is defined as being unable to achieve pregnancy following 12 or more months of sexual intercourse and can affect both the male and female reproductive system. Individuals with infertility may experience stigma, significant distress, and financial hardship, leading to a negative impact on mental and psychosocial wellbeing.

Methods of diagnosing, preventing, and treating infertility, such as in vitro fertilization and other assisted reproductive technology, are underfunded and inaccessible despite the severity of the issue. Social stigma, high costs, and limited availability keep many from receiving support.

Individuals in most countries will be required to fund infertility treatments out of pocket, which can cause devastating financial costs for many. Infertility treatments will often cost a greater proportion of one’s income in low- and middle-income countries compared to high-income countries. This may lead to poverty from seeking care.

"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,” said Pascale Allotey, PhD, BA, director of sexual and reproductive health and research at WHO. “Better policies and public financing can significantly improve access to treatment and protect poorer households from falling into poverty as a result.”

The report shows many countries are lacking data on infertility, indicating a need for more data to be available on infertility disaggregated by age and cause. Data should also be available to help individuals know whether treatment is needed and how to reduce risks.


1 in 6 people globally affected by infertility: WHO. World Health Organization. April 4, 2023. Accessed April 6, 2023.,care%20for%20those%20in%20need

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