News / Africa

Global Infertility Rates Generally Hold Steady

The World Health Organization, WHO
The World Health Organization, WHO

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
The World Health Organization says infertility rates around the world have remained relatively stable since 1990. Almost 50 million couples worldwide were unable to have a child after five years of trying. However, one region was a big exception. The WHO says infertility rates have declined in sub-Saharan Africa.

(To listen to De Capua report click on link below)

“This study is measuring infertility rather than fertility itself. And the reason that we set out to try to determine what infertility levels were is because we found that it’s a bit of a neglected area of reproductive health, said WHO statistician Gretchen Stevens, who led the study on infertility rates.

It analyzed hundreds of household surveys in 190 countries from 1990 to 2010. She says it took a different approach than previous research.

“In general, people have worried quite a bit about getting people access to contraceptives so that they could prevent unwanted pregnancies. But they haven’t worried as much about when couples are trying to become pregnant and aren’t able to do so. This is actually a first study that looks at trends in infertility worldwide and in different countries. And we thought that this might be able to raise the profile of the condition,” she said.

The results were published in PLOS Medicine, an open access medical journal. The study measured primary infertility – the inability of young women to have their first live birth – and secondary infertility – the inability the have another baby.

“For the most part,” she said, “[in] most regions of the world there wasn’t very much change in infertility levels over time. But the big exception was actually sub-Saharan Africa, where we found there was a big decline in infertility levels. So primary infertility went from 2.7 percent of women in reproductive age in 1990 to 1.9 percent in 2010. And secondary infertility declined from 13.5 percent in 1990 to 11.6 percent in 2010.”

The study did not look into why infertility rates dropped in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We have some ideas, but we don’t have any proof. So some studies have shown that in sub-Saharan Africa one of the main causes of infertility is the effects from sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. One of our hypotheses is that perhaps some of the changes in behavior  that have come about from the response to the HIV epidemic might have actually gone towards reducing infertility rates,” she said.

Such behavior change would include greater condom use and other safe sex practices. The WHO researcher says improved obstetric care may also be a factor. That’s because maternal mortality rates have fallen in sub-Saharan Africa. To be sure, however, Stevens said infertility studies would have to be conducted.

“Sometimes infertility is caused by female factors. Sometimes it’s caused by male factors and sometimes both. And I think that culturally in many regions of sub-Saharan Africa there’s been a tendency to blame the woman. But that shouldn’t be the starting point,” she said.

Stevens added that she was surprised that the overall findings showed global infertility rates remained very stable. That’s because in higher income countries there’s been concern about environmental factors affecting sperm quality and about a growing number of older women having children. But the study found no evidence to support those factors affecting infertility rates.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More