20 September 2017

Infertility in Europe: statistical data

By the Editorial Comitee IVI Blog

In Europe, one of Earth’s richest continents, birth rates have been dropping consistently for generations. Apart from changes in religious attitudes, affordability of child and healthcare, and equal rights for women, this is partially down to infertility. There are multiple issues that can affect a couple’s chances of conceiving. In the countries where there are IVI clinics, we have experts available who spend time researching these issues and searching for viable options. Now, more than ever before, unexplained infertility need not put an end to hopes for bearing a child. Doctors have answers available, and there are a multitude of options ranging from artificial insemination to IVF or using donors to have a child. Couples and single women who are affected by endometriosis, poor sperm quality, or other fairly common problems have more opportunity now than ever before to achieve their goal of starting a family.

Fertility in Statistics

Since 1950, the average births per woman in Europe has fallen from more than 3 to just 1.6. Worldwide, average births per woman have been falling for at least two generations, and for the first time in more than a hundred years, the total world population growth is slowing.

Couples seeking medical advice under the age of 35 usually leave it longer than the recommended year before making an appointment with a medical professional. Couples over the age of 35 are advised to make an appointment after trying for just six months, and there are a greater number of couples who are looking for help when they are older.

Trying to get pregnant for a year may seem unusual but actually it can take up to two years for a couple with no health issues to conceive. There are various contributing factors to this statistic, but it does mean that a couple that continues to have regular, unprotected intercourse, does not necessarily need to worry. No matter what, a visit to a doctor can help to put minds at ease – in some cases the stress of trying to conceive is the very thing keeping that egg from fertilisation! It is also important to remember that you are not alone: for example in the UK, 70% of couples struggle to conceive, according to the NHS.

Overall, couples in Europe have a high amount of trust in fertility experts and there is an increase of around 9% in couples and individuals seeking medical advice on IVF and other solutions in Europe each year. This may be due to an increase in infertility, down to factors such as age or medical issues, but it could also be that more people are seeking to include experts in the most important decision of their lives.

What is ‘Trying to Conceive’?

Medical professionals define Trying to Conceive (TTC) as having regular, unprotected sex. This does not mean that the couple needs to specifically have discussed whether they are going to try to fall pregnant, whether they are utilising techniques such as basal body temperature tracking, ovulation strips, or other methods of assistance. Because of confusion concerning the phrase, many couples do not make an appointment to see a doctor until after the recommended time period: they may have been trying for anywhere from a year and a half to four years without recognising the fact. When speaking to a doctor, it is vital that the couple is up-front and honest about how long they have been undertaking unprotected intercourse. Around 50% of young couples without infertility issues will become pregnant in the first six months of trying; the remaining 50% will find success within the next 18 months if there truly are no issues with infertility. When the couple has been trying to get pregnant for longer than this, their doctor may require more rigorous testing to try to find a suitable treatment. Working with the experts in the field, most couples will be suitable for attempting IVF or a range of different assisted reproduction treatments.

Endometriosis across Europe

Around 50% of women who suffer from the fairly common condition of endometriosis have no difficulty in becoming pregnant. With this condition, material from the uterus ends up in other parts of the body. Typical symptoms include heavy bleeding and painful cramps, and symptoms such as these may be a deterrent to trying to conceive, but they should not present any physical barrier to conceiving. Though it is not known exactly what causes endometriosis, around 10% of women worldwide suffer from this disease. This figure is unchanged between Europe and the rest of the world. This means that it is a well-researched issue, and that experts and fertility specialists will have had plenty of previous experience with treating infertility in men and women, and endometriosis. Where there is endometriosis, there is also still hope. The couple or single woman hoping to conceive will still be able to undergo a range of different assisted reproduction treatments that may result in success. IVI has a high rate of success, with nine out of ten cases resulting in pregnancy.

With modern techniques, unexplained infertility should not instantly be a worry to young couples in Europe. Delays in making an appointment to see a doctor may be partly to blame, as other sociological factors for difficulty in falling pregnant may be. Working odd schedules, stress, and lifestyle factors such as diet and smoking may be to blame, and these are easy enough issues to rectify with the help of a medical professional. Other issues, including medical disorders such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome may take more care and skill to circumvent, but the first action that a couple should take is making an appointment to identify the cause of their infertility. With success rates rising in Europe every day, there is no reason to be downhearted: 97% of patients who choose to undergo a treatment for assisted reproduction with IVI meet their goal.

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