More action needed on infertility

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More action needed on infertility

Infertility today requires social attention as the increasing number of Korean couples finding difficulty in conceiving poses as a problem beyond a household. Since 2006, the government has offered subsidies for costly fertility treatments.

Rep. Kim Kwan-young of the Democratic Party recently proposed a revision in the labor guideline law to allow paid time off from work for the treatments. But this is not enough. The entire society must pay attention to the problem to raise fertility rate and social contentment.

Infertility and subfertility are becoming more common. In last year’s survey of the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, infertility rates in married women between age 20 and 44 reached 32.3 percent, up 6.1 percentage points from three years ago.

One out of three aged between 25 and 34 and one out of two among women between 35 and 39 cannot get pregnant.

Infertility can sometimes be cured through medication, conception devices, in vitro fertilization and other assisted technologies. The government pays for three artificial insemination treatments and four in vitro fertilization procedures for couples whose monthly income is below 150 percent of the national average. But many of those who are not eligible for the subsidy cannot afford the expensive treatment. The health authorities should consider including fertility treatments in public health insurance.

Women who cannot get pregnant also need special psychological attention and support. According to the health institute report, most of the women who have been diagnosed with fertility problems - 94.5 percent - suffer from depression. They continued to be gripped with insecurity and low self-esteem even after they get pregnant through artificial means. They need social programs to help them cope better with the problem.

The causes of infertility are not clear. Experts cite a range of issues from genetic factors to environmental reasons, as well as social factors like increased conception in older women and stress. Working women have higher infertility rates than housewives - 36 percent to 29.3 percent. Some workplaces allow their married female employees to take unpaid time off from work to get treatments. But broader attention is required.

Fertility problems should be included in programs and laws to support and encourage motherhood. Employers also should consider allowing paid leave for employees for fertility treatments before a concerning law is passed.

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