Nearly half of women and men do not seek medical help for infertility

News on Monday, 22 August, 2016

One in eight women and one in ten men have experienced infertility, yet nearly half of them have not sought medical help, according to a study of more than 15,000 women and men in Britain published in the journal Human Reproduction.

The study found that, of those who reported experiencing infertility (defined as unsuccessfully trying to become pregnant for a year or longer), 42.7% of women and 46.8% of men did not seek medical help for the problem. Those who did seek help were more likely to have higher educational qualifications, better jobs and, among those who had a child, to have become parents later, compared with those who did not seek help.

The authors analysed data from 15,162 women and men aged between 16 and 74 years who took part in Britain’s third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) between 2010 and 2012.

They found that the prevalence of infertility was highest among women aged 35-44 years and among men aged 35-54. More than a third of women who became mothers aged 35 or older had experienced a period of infertility compared to fewer than one in ten women who had their first child before the age of 25.

Infertility was most likely to be experienced by people who were married or cohabiting at the time they were interviewed for the study, probably reflecting the fact that those in stable relationships were more likely to have attempted pregnancy and therefore become aware of fertility problems. Experience of infertility was more common among people with higher socio-economic status, including women who had a university degree and both women and men in managerial, professional or technical employment, compared to people in lower status, routine occupations.

Jessica Datta from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who led the research, said: “We were surprised that almost half of the people in our study who had experienced infertility had not sought help.”

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