An estimated 8–12% of couples suffer from infertility around the world, against a backdrop of fertility rates falling globally.

Low fertility global factors

There are many factors thought to be associated with low fertility rates, one of which is an increase in the maternal age at first birth. Put simply, many women are choosing to wait longer before they have children. As female fertility starts to decline at approximately 25–30 years of age, this can lead to a greater number of women who experience trouble conceiving.

Other risk factors associated with infertility include calorie restriction, excessive exercise, smoking, obesity and stress.

The sexually transmitted infection Chlamydia trachomatis is also thought to impair fertility, as do specific diseases such as premature ovarian insufficiency, polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis in women, and testicular deficiency and post-testicular impairment in men.

Infertility treatment options

Many different treatment options are now available for individuals suffering from infertility. These include artificial insemination procedures such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures, including in vitro fertilisation and intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

As infertility is a growing concern, ART/IUI rates of use are increasing in many countries within the North American, European and Asia-Pacific regions. Although ART/IUI procedures are often associated with high costs, many countries offer full or partial coverage for these treatments via their national health plans.

Economic assistance and legal regulations

Unfortunately, these reimbursement policies do not always apply to single women or same-sex couples. Additionally, legal regulations for medically assisted reproduction procedures can vary substantially between countries. Specific patient groups are not always able to access ART/IUI, and gamete donation and/or surrogacy are also prohibited in some countries.

These factors, combined with other issues such as long waiting lists and pricing considerations, have led many individuals to travel abroad for fertility treatment. This “medical tourism” acts to strengthen the reproductive healthcare industry in countries with more liberal government policies.

Medical devices

Over the next decade, it is expected that the proportion of patients seeking medical help for infertility will increase. This is due to improved disease awareness, better treatment options and accessibility, and decreased stigma regarding ART/IUI technologies.

In addition to devices associated with the procedures themselves, increases in ART/IUI utilisation are also expected to drive sales of affiliated devices such as reproductive hormones and proteins tests, which are used both for the diagnosis of infertility and for guiding patient treatment.