#IVFis40 today BUT are we ready for the new infertility challenge?

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#IVFis40 today BUT are we ready for the new infertility challenge?

#IVFis40 today BUT are we ready for the new infertility challenge?

Today is the 40th anniversary of IVF! On this day forty years ago, Louise Brown was born and became known as the first test-tube baby. What seemed like a miracle back then, is today a medical intervention performed thousands of times daily in hospitals and clinics around the world, from which so many healthy babies were born. Since Louise Brown was born, 300.000 babies more were born in the UK as a result of IVF and IVF as a treatment has improved significantly over the years, allowing a success rate increase from 8% in 1991 to 21% in 2016.

Infertility is worsening worldwide

However, fertility rates worldwide continue to reduce. Actually, since 1950, the average births per woman in Europe has fallen from more than 3 to just 1.6.  For the first time in more than a hundred years, the total world population growth is slowing (1).

Data also shows that childlessness is increasing and more people don’t have children (2).

Infertility is also a male concern: in less than 40 years, collective sperm count among this group of men has declined more than 50% and the causes can be lifestyle related (3).

More people are seeking fertility treatment

Data from HFEA shows that in 2016, 42% of patients undergoing IVF treatment cycles were under 35 and 23% were aged between 35–37.

Knowing that we are at the most fertile when we are under 35 years old, something is wrong when most people seeking IVF is in this age group.

The report also shows that since 2014, frozen IVF treatment cycles have increased by 39%.

And that 41% of IVF treatment cycles were funded by the NHS, with the majority of treatment being self funded.

The new infertility challenge

At a time when we have an amazingly successful intervention like IVF that can help so many people conceive, we are faced with a new challenge: poor quality eggs and sperm. And without these, IVF is does not work.

Data shows that the most common causes of infertility are:

  • Male factor
  • Ovulatory disorder
  • Unexplained infertility

The most common reasons for IVF treatment cycles being carried out were male infertility (37% of recorded reasons), unexplained (32%), an ovulatory disorder (13%), tubal disease (12%) and endometriosis (6%).

Male fertility is related to: the total number of sperm, movement of sperm and shape of sperm, which are affected by lifestyle and environmental factors

Ovulatory disturbances (like PCOS Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) are hormone related, also affected by lifestyle and environmental factors

If we don’t have good quality eggs and sperm, IVF is not going to be successful. This leads to more people are seeking Donor sperm/egg/embyo.

This correlates with HFEA data:

  • Increased used of donor sperm: In 2016, there were 4,306 treatment cycles where a patient used their own eggs and donor sperm (OEDS), up from 3,749 in 2015 (+15%).
  • Increased use of donor egg: Since 2011 Donor egg partner sperm (DEPS) treatment cycles have since been steadily increasing (+49% since 2011)
  • Increased use of donor eggs and sperm: Since 2009 there has been a 261% increase in Donor Eggs Donor Sperm treatment cycles.

How can we tackle this new challenge?

Even though more people are seeking IVF treatment, they are not receiving the physical or emotional support they need. Over the years, there has been a medicalization of fertility industry that has failed to account for the human being as a whole. And in the year we are celebrating 40 years of IVF, we are presented with a new silent epidemic, of lifestyle, environmental factor and holistic support that people require to improve their fertility.

This is why the the way forward to tackle this new infertility challenge is to change our lifestyle and environment so we can have healthier bodies, healthier eggs, healthier sperm. IVF is an amazing intervention but is not the solution for all fertility problems. We need to look at the data and respond to it with the seriousness that it deserves to stop worldwide population from extinction.

We prepared an Enhanced Fertility Programme to support people in changing their lifestyle and environmental factors. It’s the first attempt to respond to the new epidemic of infertility.

The programme has been developed to help people get pregnant faster by improving their health. The programme is online and has been prepared using evidence-based research, in collaboration with Simulation For Digital Health accelerator at London South Bank University.

People access the information they need, when they need it, covering aspects like:

  • Understanding Fertility
  • Nutrition and Hydration
  • Physical Activity
  • Habits and Environment
  • Managing Emotions

The Enhanced Fertility Programme is a way of supporting people’s fertility journey, helping them create a realistic plan B and optimising their physical and mental health so they can reach their reproductive goals.

Andreia Trigo RN BSc MSc

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