World Infertility Awareness Month 2022

23rd June 2022

Infertility, unfortunately, is something that affects millions of people all over the world. Infertility may lead to people feeling like they can no longer achieve their dreams of having a family, as it means that people cannot have kids of their own. Raising awareness of fertility issues has been a struggle, as many people do not wish to talk about their problems if they have them. However, with World Infertility Awareness Month, the stigma is slowly being broken. 

In this article, we will provide you with all of the information you need regarding World Infertility Awareness Month 2022, including who is behind it, what it is about, and why it is important. As well as this, we will shed some light on fertility issues that affect both men and women, as well as providing some information regarding some factors that can affect fertility. 

What is World Infertility Awareness Month?

World Infertility Awareness Month 2022 is an entire month dedicated to raising awareness for couples that are struggling with numerous fertility issues all over the world. The awareness month is held annually every June and is a chance for people suffering from fertility problems to feel open to talking about their conditions. Approximately 3.5 million people suffer from some form of fertility problem in the United Kingdom, affecting around one in six couples. This means that one in six couples in the UK will struggle with naturally conceiving. Unfortunately, people will often feel like they cannot talk about their problems, and there is a real stigma attached to fertility problems. 

What is infertility in women?

Female infertility problems are one of the leading causes of couples struggling with conception. However, they are not the only cause, and issues affecting both men and women both contribute equally. One of the most common female fertility problems is polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS. PCOS affects how the ovaries work and can lead to the ovaries not releasing eggs, thus causing infertility. Many different conditions affect female fertility, but PCOS is the most common. 

What is infertility in men?

Male infertility can be caused by a wide variety of different problems, but perhaps the most common is a low sperm count. When a man has less than 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen, he is classed as having a low sperm count. When you have a low sperm count, it becomes incredibly difficult to naturally conceive a child. Around one in three couples will struggle with sperm count or their sperm quality. 

What is IVF?

IVF stands for in vitro fertilisation and is one of the most common techniques used in couples that are struggling to conceive. IVF is done by taking an egg from a woman’s ovaries and a sperm cell from a man and combining them to form an embryo. This embryo is then returned to the woman’s womb where it will grow and develop into a baby. The sperm and egg do not need to be from the couple in question, and can instead be taken from donors. The chances of success for IVF are as follows: 

  • 32% for women under 35
  • 25% for women aged 35 to 37
  • 19% for women aged 38 to 39
  • 11% for women aged 40 to 42
  • 5% for women aged 43 to 44
  • 4% for women aged over 44

What is IUI?

Intrauterine insemination or IUI is a form of fertility treatment that is used to help couples who are struggling to conceive to have a child. IUI is done by inserting sperm directly into a woman’s womb. IUI is effective, however, it does depend on a variety of different factors. Some of the factors that affect the success rate of IUI include: 

  • the cause of infertility
  • the woman's age
  • the man's sperm count and sperm quality (using fresh sperm leads to higher conception rates than using frozen sperm)
  • whether fertility medicines are used to stimulate ovulation (this can increase your chances of success)

Fertility Rates

What is fertility rate?

The fertility rate is the number of children that are born alive to women of certain ages as a proportion of the average annual number of children born to women of the same age. The fertility rate is also the ratio of the number of live births per year to the number of women of childbearing age. Women are considered to be ‘childbearing’ between the ages of 15 and 50, however, this does vary from person to person.

What is the United Kingdom fertility rate?

According to the Office of National Statistics, the total fertility rate for the United Kingdom in 2021 was around 1.61 children per woman. This is an increase from 2020 when the total fertility rate was around 1.58 children per woman. This is the first time that the total fertility rate has increased since 2012, most likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic occurring in 2020. 

What are fertility waiting times across the UK?

The fertility waiting time refers to the number of weeks between initial GP referral to receiving some form of fertility treatment. Of over 50 cities in the United Kingdom, Northampton ranked 1st, with people going on average 21 weeks between referral and treatment. On average, the waiting time for England is around 40 weeks. The worst city in the UK for waiting times is currently Leicester, where the average wait is around 73 weeks. There are 11 cities across the UK where the waiting time on average is over a year, according to myexpertmidwife.com.

How can ovulation disorders be reduced?

There are ways in which ovulation-based disorders, such as PCOS, can be reduced. One of the best ways of doing this is by regulating weight, and getting plenty of exercise. You can also take supplements that benefit sufferers of PCOS directly. 

How often to have sex during fertile window?

The fertile window for a woman is the period of time that she is most likely going to fall pregnant through having unprotected intercourse with a man. The fertile window occurs five days before the egg is released from the ovaries. If you are able, during these five days you should be having sex as much as possible in order to boost your chances of conceiving. Of course, if sex is uncomfortable or not enjoyable then you should refrain. 

How does diet affect fertility?

Both diet and exercise can greatly affect both male and female fertility. Fertility is controlled by hormones, and hormones work best when your body is healthy. If your body is unhealthy, your hormones may not be working as optimally as they should be. This is when you may begin to experience fertility problems. For example, people carrying a few extra kilos may experience lower sperm counts or irregular periods.

Does losing weight help with fertility?

As mentioned, people that may be slightly overweight could find it harder to fall pregnant than those who are lighter. This does not mean that all overweight people are infertile, it simply means that they may find it more difficult to conceive naturally. When you lose weight, your body will be healthier and you could find it easier to conceive.

Does exercise increase fertility?

By exercising, you are working your body to its peak. When your body is performing as it should be, all of the systems, including your fertility, will be firing on all cylinders. Exercise is not a cure for infertility, but fertile people may find it easier to have a baby when they begin exercising and losing weight. You should always ensure that you exercise alongside a healthy, balanced diet. 

What can negatively affect fertility?

A woman checking a pregnancy test.

Can COVID affect fertility?

COVID-19 has become one of the most prolific infections over the past couple of years. It is only natural that people will think about all factors of health in relation to COVID. So far, there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 or any of the vaccines have a negative impact on fertility. There was a theory that the vaccine may potentially affect female fertility, however, this has been proven to be false so far. 

Does smoking affect fertility?

When you smoke, your body takes in harmful chemicals and toxins that can affect your bodily functions. Smoking can inhibit hormone production and can affect hormones linked to fertility. Smoking is known to be a factor that causes low sperm counts in men, and can negatively affect egg production in women. 

Does alcohol affect fertility?

Similarly to smoking, drinking alcohol can change the way that your hormones behave. Even a single drink can make it harder for someone to fall pregnant. You should also never drink or smoke when you are pregnant as this can lead to abnormalities in baby growth and development.

How does stress affect fertility?

When you are stressed, your body is stressed as well, meaning that certain bodily functions and hormones that regulate those bodily functions are not performing to their optimal levels. One of these functions is your fertility system. Women especially find it much harder to get pregnant whilst stressed as their hormones can be imbalanced. Stressed women may also find that their periods become unpredictable and irregular, again because of hormonal changes.

Exploring and understanding fertility is one of the key messages of World Infertility Awareness Month 2022. To learn more about both male and female fertility, take a look at our other articles today.

Sources

https://www.ivi.uk/blog/june-month-of-fertility-awareness/

https://undefiningmotherhood.com/infertility-awareness-month/

https://myexpertmidwife.com/blogs/my-expert-midwife/world-infertility-awareness-month

https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/38026/national-infertility-awareness-week-2022-guidelines-for-the-investigation-treatment-and-management-o

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/infertility/treatment/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ivf/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/artificial-insemination/