The changing landscape of fertility – 2022 and beyond

As both women and men take ownership of their reproductive health, assisted fertility, once deemed a luxury, is becoming a crucial part of healthcare. It is estimated that one in six heterosexual couples in Ireland experience infertility and there are more single women and single sex couples also hoping to become parents with the aid of fertility treatment. Overall, it is estimated that the demand for assisted reproductive technologies is steadily increasing at an approx. rate of 5-10% annually.

Here are some areas where we are seeing changes happening in the fertility landscape -

Continued growth in egg freezing
Egg freezing is the best way to overcome fertility issues where age may become a factor and over the past few years there has been a growth in patients requesting egg freezing services. We have no reason to believe this upward trend will not continue as more and more women take control of their reproductive health.

Sperm counts will continue to decline
Across the western world, men are facing a fertility crisis with sperm counts declining by almost 60% in less than 40 years. Such a significant decline in male reproductive health over a relatively short period suggests there’s something in the way we live now that means it’s much harder for men to become fathers than a generation ago. Factors such as smoking, obesity and sedentary lifestyles are frequently cited as possible contributing factors to male fertility problems.

Full treatment assisted fertility
Fertility treatments like IVF can impact stress levels, self-esteem, and mental health. There is a greater need to offer comprehensive care for all aspects of the journey, not just the physical aspect. Access to counsellors and mental health professionals is a lifeline for patients and there is a greater focus to offer this care to anyone who needs it in order to ease symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Assisted fertility for the LGBTQ community
Fertility and family planning should be accessible to everyone regardless of sexuality, gender or biology and advances in assisted reproductive technology have enabled many single sex couples and individuals to achieve their dreams of starting a family. IUI is the most common process for achieving a pregnancy for a female single sex couple and this will continue to be a growth area.

Fertility & Employers
Fertility treatments and in particular, IVF can require multiple clinic visits, medical tests and procedures and can be a complicated process for many couples especially logistically. Employees should feel comfortable talking to their employer privately about ongoing treatment/treatment plans, but many workplaces still have a lot of work to do in this regard. However, things are heading in the right direction and certainly Covid times have required employers to put employee health first.

Reproduction in an Ageing World
The average age for first-time Mum’s and Dad’s has been rising steadily for decades. Due to the increasing cost of living, more education and growing career opportunities, along with a slew of other reasons including financial debt, it’s no surprise that many women and couples are waiting to start a family. Often, this means that couples may not start trying to have children until they are in their 40’s and this will continue to be the case.

Technological advancements
There are huge advancements in medical technologies that are enabling specialists to help couples overcome fertility issues.

Here’s a couple -
Endometrial microbiome metagenomics analysis or EMMA - EMMA is used to indicate the endometrial microbiome balance which is directly linked to the failure of embryo implantation. EMMA provides information about the proportion of healthy endometrial bacteria including the ones which are linked to higher pregnancy rates and indicates the presence of healthy environment for the process of implantation.
Sperm/ testicular or FNA mapping - Sperm mapping is a technique which is used to locate the sperm in the testis. Designed to help the patients with severe male factor infertility, it is a non-invasive and non-surgical procedure and reduces the chances of damage that can happen during these procedures.

Planning, growing, and raising a family can come with many challenges and more and more people are seeking the help of assisted fertility to get them on the path to parenthood.