ABSTRACT

Infertility is a common occurrence. Differences in definitions, measurement criteria and healthcare systems between countries make global estimates of the prevalence of infertility difficult. However, a recent and comprehensive review of 25 population surveys of infertility concluded that overall around 9 per cent of women aged 20-44 experience infertility, which equates to 72.4 million women worldwide (Boivin et al, 2007).1 The inability to conceive has been documented in an extensive collection of studies as an experience that has a profound influence on the personal well-being of women and men (Phoenix et al, 1991; Monach, 1993; Sandelowski, 1993; Whiteford and Gonzalez, 1995; Inhorn, 1994, 1996; Franklin, 1997; Letherby, 1999; Becker, 2000; Reissman, 2000; Throsby, 2004; Allan, 2007). Guilt, helplessness, marital stress and depression are commonly reported, particularly for women, although as Greil’s (1997) review of the social psychological literature argues, there are many methodological flaws in existing studies, including small sample sizes and over-reliance on treatment seekers.2 Boivin et al (2007) estimate that only around half of those experiencing fertility problems seek any infertility care, and even in more developed societies less than one quarter actually receive any specialist fertility treatment.