INTRODUCTION The purpose of the present study was to review existing population surveys on the prevalence of infertility and proportion of couples seeking medical help for fertility problems. METHODS Population surveys, reporting the prevalence of infertility and proportion of couples seeking help in more and less developed countries, were reviewed. RESULTS Estimates on the prevalence of infertility came from 25 population surveys sampling 172 413 women. The 12-month prevalence rate ranged from 3.5% to 16.7% in more developed nations and from 6.9% to 9.3% in less-developed nations, with an estimated overall median prevalence of 9%. In 17 studies sampling 6410 women, the proportion of couples seeking medial care was, on average, 56.1% (range 42-76.3%) in more developed countries and 51.2% (range 27-74.1%) in less developed countries. The proportion of people actually receiving care was substantially less, 22.4%. Based on these estimates and on the current world population, 72.4 million women are currently infertile; of these, 40.5 million are currently seeking infertility medical care. CONCLUSIONS The current evidence indicates a 9% prevalence of infertility (of 12 months) with 56% of couples seeking medical care. These estimates are lower than those typically cited and are remarkably similar between more and less developed countries.