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Infertility statistics 2021: How many couples are affected by infertility?

What is infertility? | Infertility prevalence | Worldwide infertility statistics | U.S. infertility statistics | Infertility statistics by sex | Infertility statistics by age | Infertility statistics by race and ethnicity | Common complications | IVF statistics | Costs | Causes | Treatments | Epidemiology | FAQs | Research

Infertility, or not being able to get pregnant after trying for one year, can be difficult for individuals and couples to go through. Infertility is fairly common, and it can even mean getting pregnant but having stillbirths or miscarriages. Let’s take a look at some infertility statistics to better understand what it is and how it affects people.    

What is infertility?

Infertility is the inability to get pregnant even after having frequent and unprotected sex for one year. Infertility can affect both men and women and is usually self-diagnosable by an inability to get pregnant. Some women may also have a menstrual cycle that’s too long or too short, and having certain health problems like pelvic inflammatory disease or uterine fibroids may predispose someone toward being infertile.  

Doctors can run many different kinds of tests to help determine what might be causing fertility problems for an individual or couple. Transvaginal ultrasounds can help detect possible uterine abnormalities, blood tests can look for abnormal hormone levels, and semen analysis can detect semen abnormalities in men that might be playing a role in infertility. Infertility treatments are always improving, and many people are eventually able to successfully conceive.   

How common is infertility?

  • An estimated 15% of couples will have trouble conceiving. (UCLA Health, 2020)
  • Globally, 48.5 million couples experience infertility. (Reproductive Biological Endocrinology, 2015)
  • About 9% of men and 10% of women aged 15 to 44 reported infertility problems in the United States. (CDC, 2013 and Office on Women’s Health, 2019)

Infertility statistics worldwide

  • 9 of 10 countries with the highest total fertility rate are in Africa followed by Afghanistan. (Central Intelligence Agency, 2017)
  • Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, and Eastern Asia have the lowest fertility rates in the world with an average of 1.5 children per woman. (UNFPA, 2018)
  • Sweden has one of the highest fertility rates in Europe (close to 1.9 children per woman). (UNFPA, 2018)
  • 1 in 4 couples in developing countries is affected by infertility. (WHO, 2004)

Infertility statistics in the United States

  • The U.S. has an average of 1.87 children born per woman. (Central Intelligence Agency, 2017)
  • About 85% of couples will be able to conceive in their first year of trying. (UCLA Health, 2020)
  • Additionally, 7% of couples will be able to conceive in their second year of trying. (UCLA Health, 2020)
  • Infertility affects 10% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the U.S. (CDC, 2019)
  • Half (48%) of couples with difficulty conceiving do not consider their condition to be infertility. (SingleCare, 2020)

Infertility statistics by sex

  • As reported by 9% of men aged 15 to 44 and 10% of women in the same age group, infertility is nearly as common in men as it is in women in the U.S. (CDC, 2013 and Office on Women’s Health, 2019)
  • 30% of infertility cases can be attributed solely to the female, 30% can be attributed solely to the male, 30% can be attributed to a combination of both partners, and 10% of cases have an unknown cause. (Fertility Answers, 2020)

Infertility statistics by age

“Typically, my infertility patients are as young as their early 20s and as old as their mid to late 40s,” Sara Mucowski, MD, a fertility specialist at Dallas IVF.

  • 1 in 4 healthy women in their 20s and 30s will get pregnant in any single menstrual cycle. (The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, 2018)
  • 1 in 10 healthy women in their 40s will get pregnant in any single menstrual cycle. (The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, 2018)
  • In general, fertility begins to decrease for most women in their 20s and 30s and declines more quickly after the age of 35. (American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 2012)
  • Couples in which the male partner is 40 years or older are more likely to have difficulty conceiving. (CDC, 2019)
  • Sperm quality generally doesn’t become a problem for men until after the age of 60. (American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 2012)

Infertility statistics by race and ethnicity

  • Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women had the highest rate of fertility in the U.S. in 2018 followed by Hispanic Americans and Black Americans.
  • White and Asian Americans had the lowest rates of fertility in 2018.

(Statista, 2019)

Common infertility complications

Infertility and infertility complications, like miscarriages, can negatively affect a person’s overall health and quality of life. Many couples who want to start a family and are unable to conceive will experience psychological and interpersonal distress that could negatively impact their quality of life.  

  • Infertility is one of the primary reasons for divorce among couples. (International Journal of Reproductive Biomedicine, 2020)
  • Up to 60% of infertile individuals reported psychiatric symptoms with significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression than fertile individuals. (Clinical Therapeutics, 2014)
  • Nearly 41% of infertile women have depression. (BMC Women’s Health, 2004)
  • Almost 87% of infertile women have anxiety. (BMC Women’s Health, 2004)
  • Women who get pregnant via IVF have a higher chance of giving birth prematurely. (Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2017)

IVF statistics

  • In the U.S., 12% of women of childbearing age have used an infertility service (CDC, 2017).
  • Nearly 2% of live births in the U.S. are a result of assisted reproductive technology (ART). (CDC, 2017)
  • Females aged 30 to 33 have the best chance of success (58%) during their first cycle of IVF compared to females of other age groups. (Fertility Solutions)
  • In one study of women seeking fertility treatment, 4% of women used medications only, 21% used IUI, 53% used IVF, and 22% did not pursue cycle-based treatment. (Fertility and Sterility, 2011)

The cost of infertility treatment

  • All treatment costs for infertility can range from $5,000 to $73,000 (Fertility and Sterility, 2011)
  • The average patient goes through two IVF cycles, bringing the total cost of IVF (including procedures and medications) between $40,000 and $60,000. (SingleCare, 2020)
  • An estimated 85% of IVF costs are often paid out of pocket. (Fertility and Sterility, 2011)
  • IVF children are more frequently admitted to hospitals than non-IVF children. The post-neonatal hospital care cost of singleton IVF children was nearly two times that of singleton non-IVF children. (Human Reproduction, 2007)

Causes of infertility

According to SingleCare’s infertility survey, 25% of couples do not know the cause of their fertility problems.

Female infertility is often due to problems with ovulation that may be caused by ovulation disorders like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), or hyperprolactinemia. Female infertility can also be caused by uterine or cervical abnormalities, fallopian tube damage, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, early menopause, pelvic scar tissue, and even cancer treatment or severe psychological distress. 

“Ovulatory dysfunction is quite common, especially with the difficulties we face as a society with increasing weight; carrying excess weight often affects ovulating function,” says Jessica Scotchie, MD, the co-founder of Tennessee Reproductive Medicine who’s double board-certified in reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI). “Women are also starting their families at older ages on average (many are waiting until age 30, whereas prior generations generally started families between age 20-25). Starting a family at an older age can cause egg quality and ovarian dysfunction factors to play a large part in infertility. Anatomical problems such as endometriosis and blocked fallopian tubes are very common as well, seen in at least 15 to 20% of patients.”

Male infertility is most often caused by testicles that aren’t working properly. Varicocele is a condition where the veins on a man’s testicles are too large, which causes them to heat up, which affects sperm count and shape. The quality of sperm can also be affected by health conditions like diabetes, genetic defects, and undescended testicles. If sperm isn’t delivered properly because of premature ejaculation or structural problems, this can also affect fertility. Even environmental exposure to toxic chemicals or pesticides can affect reproductive health and the quality of sperm.     

Treating infertility

The good news is, only 10% of the total infertility cases are incurable; those are the complications that fall under the 10% umbrella of infertility cases due to unknown factors,” says Jolene Caufield, the senior advisor at Healthy Howard, a nonprofit organization for healthy living, life coaching, and health care, including sexual health. “The remaining 90% can be treated and managed thanks to medical advancements in the last 30 years. Enter, in vitro fertilization (or IVF). This procedure is the most recommended treatment for infertility in both parties.”

In SingleCare’s 2020 infertility survey, 60% of respondents reported that they received some type of fertility treatment. IVF, fertility medications, and ovulation induction were the three most common treatments among survey takers. Two-thirds of respondents also tried natural remedies or alternative medicines to help them conceive.

In vitro fertilization (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI), artificial insemination (AI), and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) are all treatment options that have been very successful at helping people become pregnant. There have even been new improvements in IVF to help make it more effective, such as pre-implantation genetic screening, and researchers are continuously looking for new ways to make infertility treatments better.  

In addition to ART and surgical procedures, infertility treatments include a combination of medications. Here are some of the most common medications used to treat infertility: 

Epidemiology of infertility 

Infertility is becoming more and more common, especially since many couples are waiting to have children later in life. One in 4 couples in developing countries are affected by infertility, and about 48.5 million couples experience infertility worldwide. Some doctors and researchers would say that infertility is becoming an epidemic, and infertility treatments are becoming more popular as couples look for ways to start a family.

Infertility questions and answers  

Are rates of infertility increasing?

Infertility is increasing. The use of assisted reproductive technology (ART) by infertile couples is increasing by 5% to 10% per year. In 1950, there was an average of five children per woman worldwide, according to the United Nations. There’s an average of two children per woman worldwide in 2020.

“In the U.S., there has been an overall long-term decline in birth and fertility rates that has been attributed to multiple factors including advanced education and career opportunities for women, later marriage, improved access to contraception, delayed childbearing, and decreased family size,” Dr. Mucowski says.

How many couples are infertile?

About 12% to 15% of couples are unable to conceive after trying to get pregnant for one year. 

Does infertility increase divorce rates?

In some studies, infertility correlates with an increased divorce rate among infertile couples.

What can cause infertility in a woman? 

Infertility in a woman is most often caused by a failure to ovulate, but it can also be infections, endometriosis, reproductive system abnormalities, or other problems with the menstrual cycle. 

Is there a cure for infertility?

Infertility treatments, including medications and procedures such as IVF, can help couples overcome infertility and achieve pregnancy. Whether or not someone will be able to overcome their infertility will depend on their unique circumstances, age, and medical history.