The burden of infertility in New Zealand: A baseline survey of prevalence and service use

Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2021 Jun;61(3):439-447. doi: 10.1111/ajo.13323. Epub 2021 Feb 28.


Background: Studies in southern New Zealand indicate that up to a quarter of women experienced infertility, likely due to delay in childbearing. However, these findings may not be generalisable to the whole population.

Aims: To assess the lifetime prevalence of infertility and evidence for disparities for New Zealand men and women in a nationally representative sample.

Materials and methods: In 2014/15 a general health survey with a module on sexual and reproductive health was conducted among New Zealand residents aged 16-74 years; 3792 men and 5222 women provided information on infertility.

Result(s): There were 8.2% (95% CI 7.1-9.4%) of men and 12.5% (11.3-13.8%) of women who had experienced infertility; among fertility-tested women this was 15.4% (14.0-16.9%). Prevalence peaked in the 35-44 year age group (14.3% for men, 19.1% for women and 20.8% for fertility-tested women). Estimates for European, Māori and Asian ethnicities were similar. Pacific men and women had higher relative risks: 2.37 (95% CI 1.51-3.71) and 1.76 (1.27-2.44), respectively, compared with Europeans. Medical help was sought by 69.3% (95% CI 62.4-75.5%) of infertile men and 68.2% (63.1-72.9%) of women; this was significantly lower for Māori and Pacific.

Conclusions: Infertility levels for those of European ethnicity were similar to studies in southern New Zealand, and in other high-income countries. However, infertility levels were just as high for Māori, and higher for Pacific people, despite experiencing fertility at younger ages. Focusing on reducing causes of infertility other than delayed childbearing would likely contribute to addressing this health disparity.

Keywords: epidemiology; health services; inequality; infertility; prevalence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility*
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires