New report finds 1 in 6 adults affected by infertility

Both men and women can contribute to infertility.

April 3, 2023, 6:30 PM

A new report published Monday by the World Health Organization found that a large number of adults -- nearly 1 in 6 worldwide -- are affected by infertility in their lifetime.

The WHO said that the new finding emphasizes the "urgent need to increase access to affordable, high-quality fertility care," according to a press release.

The organization also reported that the new estimates found there is "limited variation" in the prevalence of infertility between regions and that rates are comparable among all countries and income levels.

PHOTO: A stock photo of a doctor with a pregnant patient.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

Previous research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that 1 in 5 women in the United States, ages 15 to 49 years old with no prior births, are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying, which is considered infertility.

Both men and women can contribute to infertility.

Infertility expert Dr. Asima Ahmad is the chief medical officer and co-founder of Carrot Fertility. She said the new WHO report did not surprise her and that the number may be actually higher than reported.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) at their headquarters in Geneva, Dec. 7, 2021.
Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

"Previously, it was reported that 1 in 8 people experience infertility, but I have always thought that the true number was higher," Ahmad told ABC News, adding that the WHO study only reported on female-male relationships with unprotected intercourse for one year without pregnancy, and that when same-sex couples, single-intending parents, or other individuals are factored in, the number of those seeking and needing fertility care is much higher.

She also stressed the importance of noting that while the "prevalence" of infertility is similar among countries, studying access to care in those countries is far more important.

"It's also important to note that fertility care can be complex in many parts of the world," she said. "Different countries and regions have varying laws and regulations around fertility care, which can make it even more complicated for individuals to access the treatments they need."