Towards a more pragmatic and wiser approach to infertility care

Siladitya Bhattacharya*, J. L. Hans Evers, Sofia Gameiro, Eva Negri, Edgardo Somigliana, Paolo Vercellini, Kaye Wellings, David T. Baird, PierGiorgio Crosignani, Anna Glasier, Carlo La Vecchia, The Annual Capri Workshop Group

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Infertility represents a very peculiar area of medicine. Contrary to other areas, where signs and symptoms lead to a diagnosis, which in turn leads to a specific treatment, in reproduction the lack of signs and symptoms for more than 12 months suggests the diagnosis of 'unexplained subfertility', and if this condition has lasted for some years, couples qualify for IVF. Diagnosis and treatments can extend over long periods of time (even years) and the accuracy of the diagnostic armamentarium is not optimal. Uncertainty about diagnosis and the need for significant perseverance is demanding on both couples and physicians, and actually constitute a very favourable situation for overdiagnosis (unexplained subfertility') and overtreatment (IVF) on one hand, and, on the other, it may also affect compliance with treatments. To improve our capacity to properly handle this challenging situation, increased attention should be given to the duration of pregnancy seeking. Initiating treatments earlier in older women is unwise because this population has a lower fecundity and, therefore, duration of pregnancy seeking is even more important to achieve a reliable diagnosis of infertility. Moreover, if the infertility work-up is unremarkable, duration of pregnancy seeking should be extended up to more than 2 years prior to making a diagnosis of unexplained infertility regardless of age. An adequate period of pregnancy seeking is also required for couples who are diagnosed with conditions that can interfere with fertility to avoid overdiagnosis and overtreatment. Indeed, most causes of infertility will reduce but not impair natural conception. Within this sometimes long-term management, physicians should also pay attention to detrimental life habits in order to optimize the chances of both natural and assisted reproduction technology-mediated pregnancy. Even if interventional studies are not conclusive, it is advisable to address the problems of obesity and smoking. Focussing on frequency of sexual intercourse may be also beneficial for natural conception. Finally, there is the need for improving our capacity to handle compliance. Providing information on the importance of persevering at the start of treatment, promoting shared decision making and tackling patient, clinic and treatment causes of drop-out can all improve the overall chances of parenthood. Thus, we plead for a wiser and more pragmatic approach to infertility, paying more attention to these neglected, but in our opinion essential, aspects of infertility care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1165-1172
Number of pages8
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • ART
  • infertility
  • IVF
  • ageing
  • overdiagnosis

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