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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid