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Is Infertility on the Rise?

2022-06-16T07:46:47-06:00June 16th, 2022|

Infertility is defined as being unable to get pregnant after 1 year of unprotected sex if women under 35 years of age, or 6 months in women 35 years and older. There are many reasons why women and couples can experience infertility. Problems with ovulation, fallopian tubes, gynecologic conditions such as endometriosis or fibroids, and concerns with sperm count and sperm quality can all have an effect on fertility. 

Lately, it may seem that more and more people are going through infertility or fertility treatments. Turns out, there’s some truth to that. Here, we’ll discuss statistics related to infertility, why infertility may be increasing, and how you can help boost your own fertility. 

Is infertility on the rise? 

Infertility rates are rising, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There used to be a worldwide average of 5 children per woman in 1950, but in 2020, that average has fallen to 2 children according to the United Nations. In the United States, about 11% of women and 9% of men of childbearing age have infertility. 

Infertility statistics worldwide

The World Health Organization states about 60 to 80 million couples worldwide have infertility. 

Southern and Eastern Europe and East Asia have some of the lowest fertility rates, with 1.5 children per woman

On average, 1 in 4 couples in developing countries experiences infertility. Data indicates that assisted reproductive technology (ART) has increased 5% to 10% annually. 

Infertility statistics in the United States

The CDC states in heterosexual women 15 to 49 years who have never given birth, about 19%, experience infertility. 

A woman is less likely to experience infertility if she has had at least one birth. About 6% of these married women 15 to 49 years have infertility. 

Infertility statistics by sex

About 10% of women ages 15 to 44 in the United States have infertility, but infertility affects men and women close to equally. When broken down, infertility statistics by sex are as follows:

  • One-third of couples with infertility have a problem with the man.
  • One-third of couples with infertility have a problem with the woman.
  • One-third of couples have a mix of both. 

Infertility statistics by age

For healthy couples age 30 and younger, 40% to 60% can get pregnant within 3 months of trying. By the time they’re in their 30s however, women’s fertility decreases by half as when they’re in their early 20s. 

In fact, by the time a woman is 35, fertility decreases exponentially. This is because women are born with a limited egg supply that starts decreasing even before the first period start and this decrase is very rapid after the mid 30s.  Issues of egg quality and problems with the genetic chromosomal makeup of the eggs also become prominent in the 30s and 40s. 

Infertility statistics by race and ethnicity

The CDC doesn’t break down infertility data by race. However, data shows non-Hispanic Black married women were more likely to experience infertility than non-Hispanic white married women.

A 2019 study showed African American women ages 33 to 44 are twice as likely to experience infertility compared to Caucasian women in the United States. The study authors noted while infertility rates are decreasing in Caucasian women, they’re increasing in African American women. 

Even if states have infertility coverage, care is still used significantly more by non-Hispanic white women who have high socioeconomic and educational status. 

Why is infertility on the rise?

There are several reasons why infertility seems to be rising in women and couples.  

Couples are having children later 

About 13% of couples have trouble getting pregnant when the woman is age 30 and younger. That number increases to 22% when the woman is 30 to 39. 

The main reason fertility decreases with age is because the quality of a woman’s eggs declines as she gets older. And, as women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, older women have fewer eggs. The natural aging process also means higher chances of miscarriage and having a child with a genetic condition. 

The concern isn’t only with women, as aging can also affect men’s fertility, according to the CDC. There can be more challenges in achieving pregnancy if the male partner is over age 40. Research also shows declining sperm quality in men over age 40 can contribute to having a child with a genetic abnormality.

Our environment affects our fertility 

In men, exposing the genitals to prolonged heat such as frequent saunas and hot tubs can affect short-term sperm production. Radiation exposure can also affect fertility for men and women

In men, certain medications can have a negative effect on fertility, including:

  • Bicalutamide
  • Cimetidine
  • Cyproterone
  • Flutamide
  • Ketoconazole
  • Spironolactone
  • Finasteride

Various toxins in the environment can also affect both male and female fertility. These toxins can include:

  • Pesticides
  • Mercury
  • Lead
  • Cadmium
  • Bisphenol A
  • Flame retardants
  • Phthalates

Lifestyle factors can affect fertility

There are factors in day-to-day life that can have an impact on fertility, including: 

  • Smoking: Smoking tobacco can damage sperm, affect reproductive hormones, and make it more difficult to get pregnant. 
  • Alcohol use: Alcohol has an effect on both men’s and women’s fertility. For women, since no amount of alcohol is considered safe in pregnancy, it’s recommended to moderate alcohol use when trying to conceive. 
  • Weight fluctuations: Too much exercise and extreme weight loss can cause a condition known as functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA) where a woman can stop menstruating, or having their period. A high BMI can lead to problems with ovulation and irregular periods. 
  • Stress: High levels of stress may lead to irregular or absent periods. 

Lifestyle factors can be controlled, and once modifications have been made, many people are able to become pregnant. Quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing stress can all help move couples towards better fertility health. 

If you have concerns about getting pregnant, don’t hesitate to talk with your healthcare provider. While it’s important to be as healthy as possible before you conceive, you don’t need to wait to seek out help and start a conversation with your doctor. Call us today to make an appointment with a CCRM Fertility specialist. 

Written by Dr. Sara Barton, a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist at CCRM Fertility in Colorado.

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