Infertility Rates Decrease… Sort Of
The number of married couples diagnosed with infertility has dropped from 8.5% to 6% according to a new study.
About 6 percent of married women under 45 failed to get pregnant after at least a year of sex without contraception, according to the report. That’s down from less than 9 percent some three decades ago.
The emphasis on married is mine. It has been a long-standing divide in the infertility community between those who are situationally-infertile and those who are biologically-infertile. Or rather, the divide comes more at the scientific and political levels; down here in the trenches, assisted conception is assisted conception. But it’s seen quite clearly in the study itself, which only questioned married, heterosexual couples rather than looking at single parents by choice who also turn out to need IVF to conceive or lesbians who suffer from recurrent pregnancy loss.
In other words, if you’re only asking married couples about their fertility, you’re not really getting a very clear picture of fertility rates since a person can be both situationally and biologically infertile at the same time. I would have a lot more interest in the study if they looked at individuals. A fertility study that only looks at married heterosexuals doesn’t really tell the full story despite media outlets reporting to the contrary.
What it comes down to is whether you believe someone who needs assistance to conceive should be counted amongst others that also need assistance to conceive. There isn’t a clear-cut, black-and-white answer. We could debate this incessantly, trying to find the boundaries. It isn’t helped by the fact that such a large percentage of people diagnosed with infertility are considered “unexplained” (nearly 20%). That lack of why also creates a problem when creating the definition for infertility, and because it is such an amorphous disease at times, excluding populations that don’t neatly fit into the definition is one way of making it specific.
The problem with that is, of course, that (again) people can be a single-mother-by-choice or lesbian who can’t conceive despite numerous IUIs, making them both situationally and biologically infertile. But those people aren’t counted in studies like this despite existing.
So yes, infertility rates are down amongst married couples. But that says nothing about whether infertility rates are down overall for individuals.