Sexual and reproductive health

Assisting couples and individuals – Fertility and infertility

Image showing a painting and photos of individuals
"Femme fleur", painting by Christine Meynent, 2010

It is the choice of each individual and couple, within their own sense of conscience, to determine if they intend pregnancy, and if so, the size of their family unit and the timing of when to have a child or children.
If fertility problems arise, interventions can be attempted from simple fertility awareness methods to more advanced methods associated with in vitro fertilization. These interventions are scientifically innovative; and, they have revolutionized concepts of generational identity, family, and human reproductive potential.

Definitions and terminology of infertility and key issues

Painting
"Petit bijou" - Painting by Christine Meynent, 2009

Definitions and terminology impact many of the key issues associated with subfertility and infertility. Consistency in use of definition and a standardized methodological diagnostic tool will be required in order to define the true global burden of disease – in men and women.

Generating evidence-based guidelines - Challenges, controversies and innovative solutions

Painting
"Regarder devant" - Painting by Christine Meynent

Generation of WHO evidence-based guidelines and recommendations are based upon systematic reviews and GRADING of available clinical, epidemiological and operations research as well as systematic analysis of existing and recently developed evidence-based guidelines. Subsequently, clinical manuals will be developed which will recommend best practice. Despite challenges and controversies surrounding provision and access to assisted reproduction, innovative solutions are being found.

Global burden of infertility

Paintings
"L'homme au chapeau" "Femme cachée" (paintings C. Meynent)

One in every four couples in developing countries had been found to be affected by infertility, when an evaluation of responses from women in Demographic and Health Surveys from 1990 was completed in collaboration with WHO in 2004. The burden remains high. A WHO study, published at the end of 2012, has shown that the overall burden of infertility in women from 190 countries has remained similar in estimated levels and trends from 1990 to 2010.

About infertility

Infertility in developing countries

Portrait of a young woman in Myanmar
E. Petitpierre

“In a world that needs vigorous control of population growth, concerns about infertility may seem odd, but the adoption of a small family norm makes the issue of involuntary infertility more pressing. If couples are urged to postpone or widely space pregnancies, it is imperative that they should be helped to achieve pregnancy when they so decide, in the more limited time they will have available.” Mahmoud Fathalla, Former Director of HRP*.
 


Contact WHO-RHR | S Vanderpoel | vanderpoels@who.int


* UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction has been widely known for many years by the abbreviation (HRP)

Partners

Societies addressing infertility

ICMART - IFFS - FIGO - ASRM - ESHRE

Non-profit organizations addressing infertility

The Walking Egg - The Low Cost IVF Foundation - Steptoe-Edwards Research Trust