(HealthDay News) – Infertility rates worldwide are similar to those in 1990, though the number of couples affected by infertility rose to nearly 50 million in 2010 due to population growth, according to a study published online Dec. 18 in PLOS Medicine.

Maya N. Mascarenhas, from the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues analyzed household survey data from 277 demographic and reproductive health surveys from 190 developed and developing countries and territories from 1990–2010. The authors sought to analyze global trends in infertility in women aged 20–44 years exposed to the risk of pregnancy.

The researchers found that, in 2010, 1.9% of women were unable to attain a live birth (primary infertility) and 10.5% of women who had at least one live birth were unable to have another child (secondary infertility). The highest prevalence of infertility was seen in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa/Middle East, and Central/Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Apart from declines in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, infertility levels were similar to those in 1990. Due to reduced child-seeking behavior, primary infertility fell from 1.6% to 1.5% and secondary infertility fell from 3.9% to 3%. However, the absolute number of couples affected by infertility rose from 42 million in 1990 to 48.5 million in 2010 due to population growth.

“Independent from population growth and worldwide declines in the preferred number of children, we found little evidence of changes in infertility over two decades, apart from in the regions of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” Mascarenhas and colleagues conclude.

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