About 17% of couples in Croatia are infertile, which means that about 80,000 have problems with natural reproduction, Vecernji List daily said on Monday.
About 10,000 couples are treated annually and about half don’t register the problem in time, says gynecologist Velimir Simunic, a human reproduction subspecialist and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) pioneer at a Zagreb women’s hospital, where almost 40 years ago he led a team of experts who achieved the conception and birth of the first IVF baby in Croatia, making it the eighth country in the world where this was done.
“Infertility is constantly rising, globally and in Croatia. It is estimated that in ten years about 30% of couples in most of the world will be infertile,” the daily quoted Simunic as saying.
On average, women in Croatia have their first child at 29 years of age, and more and more often between 30 and 35. Their fertility starts declining by 5% a year at 32 and by 15-20% a year after they turn 38. In their 40s, women experience more and more illnesses that can harm reproductive organs.
“For a couple over 41, it is five times more difficult and slower to achieve pregnancy. Abortions are also more frequent then,” Simunic said.
Speaking of the causes of the rising infertility, he mentioned worldview changes regarding women’s reproductive autonomy and the fact that since the demographic transition in 1965, reliable contraception has made it possible to separate sexuality and reproduction.
“Once it was believed that women were infertile. However, male infertility is more frequent today. Spermatogenesis is very sensitive to the so-called epigenetic factors, so environmental pollutants damage sperm cell creation. Today, male fertility is 50% lower than 50 years ago,” Simunic said.
In practice, the causes of infertility are 30% on the female side, 30% on the male side, and 30% combined, while 10 to 20% of the cases remain unknown, Vecernji List said.