Croatia has an infertility problem

In Croatia, about 17% of couples are infertile, which means that about 80,000 have problems with natural reproduction. [Shutterstock/fizkes]

“Infertility is constantly rising, globally and in Croatia. It is estimated that in 10 years about 30% of couples in most of the world will be infertile,” Večernji List daily quoted gynaecologist Velimir Šimunić, a human reproduction subspecialist and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) pioneer at a Zagreb women’s hospital, as saying.

According to Šimunić – who led a team of experts who achieved the conception and birth of the first IVF baby in Croatia almost 40 years ago – about 10,000 couples are treated annually and about half do not register the problem in time.

In Croatia, about 17% of couples are infertile, which means that about 80,000 have problems with natural reproduction, Večernji List daily reported. Women in Croatia have their first child at the age of 29 on average, with an increasing number giving their first birth between the ages 30 and 35. 

However, fertility starts declining by 5% each year once women turn 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,” Šimunić said.

Speaking of the causes of rising infertility, the gynaecologist 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,” Šimunić 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, Večernji List also said.

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