Infertility Essay

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Infertility is the physical inability to conceive a child or to successfully carry a child to term. Most medical professionals consider a couple to be infertile if they have failed to conceive after twelve months of unprotected intercourse. Either partner or both may have the reproductive impairment. Between 8 and 12 percent of couples -or between 50 and 80 million people worldwide -are affected by infertility. Perhaps twenty to forty percent of couples in any given society have been affected by infertility at some point in their lives. Infertility is particularly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Infertility can have far-reaching effects on life satisfaction, well-being, and psychological adjustment, especially for women. Because of the great importance attached to childbearing and parenting roles, women often experience infertility as a catastrophic role-failure, which can come to permeate every aspect of life. McQuillan et al. (2003) conclude that infertility distress is found primarily among infertile women who remain childless. Since female fertility declines with increasing age, the current trend in industrialized societies toward delayed child-bearing means that a larger percentage of infertile couples than before are childless when they discover their infertility. Suffering from infertility may be more pronounced in developing societies, where parenting is culturally mandatory and where alternative roles for women may be less available.

About half of infertile women in industrialized societies report that they have been to a physician or a clinic to seek treatment. It is in the developing world, where demand for infertility services is greatest, that access to infertility treatment in general is most limited. Treatment of infertility is often expensive, time-consuming, and invasive.


  1. Inhorn, M. C. & van Balen, F. (eds.) (2002) Infertility around the Globe: New Thinking on Childlessness, Gender, and Reproductive Technologies. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.
  2. McQuillan, J., Greil, A. L., White, L., & Jacob, M. C. (2003) Frustrated fertility: infertility and psychological distress among women. Journal of Marriage and the Family 65: 1007-18.

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