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Americans Experiencing A 'Fertility Gap'

Armen Hareyan's picture

Fertility in America

Overview by infertility network examines treatment, medical & social trends of fertility.

A "fertility gap" exists between Americans and is fueled by differing levels of public awareness as well as financial, geographic, and social factors, dividing those who need help getting pregnant and those undergoing the most advanced fertility treatments, according to a new report from the largest network of private infertility medical practices in the nation.

The "State of Fertility Report, 2007" -- issued by the 30-member network IntegraMed America, Inc. -- is a general overview of medical and social trends in regards to a condition that impacts one in eight American couples. The just-released report draws on previously published information as well as original research conducted in 2005 by IntegraMed. Among other conclusions, the report finds that rates of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments vary widely among states, aligning closely with the so-called "blue/red divide."

Some disparities may be directly related to variances in geographic access. For example, according to data provided by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, Hawaii, New Jersey and Kansas have some of the highest concentrations of IVF medical practices per capita, whereas two states (Montana and Wyoming) have no IVF specialists, and 12 more states are home to only one IVF practice each.

While in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive technologies are not inexpensive, they account for only three hundredths of one percent (0.03 percent) of American health care costs, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). According to industry analysts, the U.S. fertility market is currently expanding by about 6 percent to 8 percent per year. According to published reports, the number of fertility practices in the United States has grown by about 60 percent from just 10 years ago.

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Other key findings include:

-- Despite a decline in demand for infertility services from aging baby boomers, a growing interest from younger patients continues to spur ongoing growth of the fertility medical sector.

-- According to a survey of infertile couples by IntegraMed, the most common reasons women give for not seeking infertility treatments are self-described medical limitations, religious barriers, too little time spent trying to conceive, they already have a child and they prefer to adopt.

-- Southerners are most likely to avoid infertility treatment for religious reasons, and those most interested in treatment are in their mid to late 30s, voted for John Kerry in the latest presidential election and are often white-collar professionals.

"Our hope in presenting this compiled information is simply public education," says Jay Higham, President and CEO of IntegraMed. "Infertility sufferers should be aware of the broad landscape of choices of treatment, as well as social factors and influences, so that they can take full charge of their own reproductive health and make the best-informed decisions on where they seek help."

Currently, fertility is a $3 billion a year industry in the U.S., comprised of a pharmaceutical segment and a medical-practice segment. The practice segment currently employs about 1,500 physicians in approximately 425 fertility centers.

According to the Assisted Conception Taskforce (ACT), only six percent of the 90 million couples across the world experiencing conception difficulties receive the treatment they need. That leaves an estimated 94 percent of infertile couples worldwide who are not receiving treatment (ACT, 2005).