LaingBuisson’s Fertility Forum in London on 1 November 2019 addressed a wide range of global issues, factors and trends which are influencing the rapidly evolving fertility sector.
Fertility Forum 2019 provided insight and analysis that by 2030 half of MENA (Middle East and North Africa) countries will have total fertility rates at or below population replacement level. It looked at the factors behind this, identifying a shift in demands and expectations by increasingly educated and health conscious populations. As women become better educated, they marry later and increasingly have a greater say in conception, family building arrangements and decisions to have less children in whom they can invest more time, energy and education. It identified a range of factors influencing declining male fertility including lack of exercise, smoking, excess alcohol, stress, poor diet and correlating trends in adult MENA populations: 18.5% suffering with diabetes aged 20 to 79 years, 34.5% struggling with obesity and 22.5% with hypertension. It also highlighted a shift in attitudes and greater cultural and social acceptance of assisted reproduction in MENA countries.
Factors driving increased global demand for egg donation and egg banking services were addressed at Fertility Forum 2019. In addition to trends in delayed motherhood, it identified wider factors including technological advances, increased fertility awareness, greater social acceptance of modern family forms and changes in law and policy enabling greater access to assisted reproductive technology. It also addressed factors influencing cross-border fertility treatment including: cost, limited egg donor availability, limited information about donor characteristics, donor anonymity, egg donor age limits and relationship status.
Fertility Forum 2019 shone a light on cutting-edge work by Fertility Genomics and their development of DNA spit kits to help genetically triage fertility patients in the UK ahead of fertility treatment. At a cost of £825 per kit or £1,500 per couple, Fertility Genomics will be able to test for known genetic defects resulting in production of defective sperm or eggs that cannot fertilise naturally or during IVF. Fertility Genomics will also offer couple specific genetic counselling and follow up sperm function tests to support patients undergoing fertility treatment.
Fertility Forum 2019 also highlighted advancements in work by Ovusense, which tracks fertility and predicts female ovulation using technology that assesses core body temperature. Ovusense provides live and up to 24-hour advance prediction of ovulation, using an App and overnight vaginal sensor which measures core body temperature every five minutes, to help support conception.
For my part, it was a privilege to address the future legal and regulatory landscape of the fertility sector at Fertility Forum 2019. I explained that as we continue to see greater acceptance and uptake of assisted reproductive technology and more use of genomic, artificial intelligence and digital technology, it brings into focus the need for enlightened root and branch law and policy reform at individual, national and international levels. More will follow on this shortly.
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