News Brief: WHO Broadens Definition of "Infertile" to Include Singles and Same-Sex Couples

Under the World Health Organization’s previous definition, infertility was failure to achieve pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. Its expanded version will apply to more families.

News Briefs

The World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to broaden its definition of “infertile” to include same-sex couples and singles who wish to become parents. The revision is designed to give more people access to in vitro fertilization (IVF).

In order to receive public funding or insurance coverage for IVF treatments, many countries and companies require that a person is first deemed “infertile,” a characterization classified as a disability by WHO. Current guideline require that a couple try to become pregnant via unprotected sex for a year before being labeled with the “inability to become pregnant.” This excludes single people without partners, or same-sex couples—who may be physically capable of carrying a child—from using the treatment.

Though WHO doesn’t directly change policy, it distributes these updated guidelines to health ministers who can then work with government officials to update laws. In the United States, laws vary from state to state; only 15 require insurance companies to cover IVF. This leaves many singles and couples paying for policies that cover maternity treatments they will never be able to use without the help of IVF they can’t afford. Resolve, the national infertility association, encourages people to petition their states to make coverage mandatory, and build on the changes WHO is trying bring about.

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