Advances in Infertility Treatment

April 29, 1983

Report Outline
Extent of Problem Today
Artificial Insemination
Alternatives and Options
Special Focus

Extent of Problem Today

Increased Number of Infertile Couples

Nothing could be more natural than having a baby. In 1982 more than 3.7 million American women did just that. But there is another side to the coin. Health analysts believe that as many as 3.5 million married couples—perhaps one in five—are trying to have children but are unable to do so. Couples who cannot conceive a child after a year of trying are classified as infertile, and experts believe there are now more infertile couples in this country than ever before.

The reasons for the unprecedented number of infertile couples have less to do with health abnormalities than with changing social mores. A generation ago people usually married young and had children within a few years. But these days, increasing numbers of married women are putting careers before motherhood. The widespread availability of effective contraceptives and legal abortions has helped make it easier to put off childbearing. It is no longer uncommon for a married woman to delay trying to have children until her early or mid-30s as her “biological clock” winds down. Women are capable of having children until menopause, which usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 50. But after age 35, the health risks for pregnant women and their unborn children rise significantly.

One problem with waiting is that it can be much more difficult for a couple to conceive a child; after age 25 fertility begins to decline for both men and women. “We know that as time goes on, [couples] expose themselves to more potential causes of infertility,” said Dr. Wayne H. Decker, executive director of the Fertility Research Foundation in New York.

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