Arizonans react to recent WHO report about rising infertility rates

It wasn't until Abby Leadon did in-vitro fertilization, or IVF, that she was able to get pregnant.
Published: Apr. 7, 2023 at 10:20 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Roughly 17% of the global population, or about one in six people, struggle with infertility, according to the latest report from the World Health Organization. Here in Arizona, infertility specialists say statewide patterns reflect those global numbers.

Doctors say diet, exercise, and staying up to date on medical visits can all play a role in fighting infertility. And the earlier one pays attention to these trends, the better. “I was really kind of worried that it might not happen for me,” Scottsdale resident Abby Leadon said.

For six months, Leadon and her husband tried to start a family. But it just wasn’t happening. She tried several different natural teas and an IUI, where sperm is placed directly into the uterus. But it wasn’t until she did in vitro fertilization (IVF), where the eggs are removed and fertilized outside of the body, that Leadon was able to get pregnant. “There’s a lot of emotion,” Leadon said. “Because I think that starting a family, for someone who doesn’t have a child, is one of the most important things that you could do with your life.”

Leadon is now a mom to a four-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy. She says realizing that so many people like her were struggling to start a family helped her during her process.

Scottsdale-based Bloom Reproductive Institute Dr. Millie Behera, who helped Leadon as she tried to get pregnant, says there’s no one thing that’s been confirmed as the main reason for rising infertility. But she believes couples having children later in life is playing a part. “Possibly for other reasons,” Behera said. “Social reasons, career reasons, and any other things. We are seeing that may be the primary cause for more couples needing fertility help.”

The WHO report says that treatments like IVF remain underfunded and unavailable to many due to high costs and limited accessibility. Behera says while she’s seeing more patients come in with fertility benefits, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. “The financial barrier to obtaining fertility help or treatment, or even just an evaluation for their troubles conceiving, is really the biggest thing that we deal with,” she said.

That’s part of why Sonoran University of Health Sciences Dr. Alexandra Mele says it’s important to incorporate holistic care into fertility treatments. “Naturopathic medicine does address the whole individual and the whole person and is great at addressing diet, lifestyle, using nutraceuticals, herbs,” Mele said. “And it stays up on the research.”