Fertility on the decline – UN report

The average fertility rate in South Africa is on the decline, in line with global trends. Couples unable to conceive after a year of trying should seek help from a specialist, says a leading urogynaecologist.

A United Nations report notes that fertility rates in South Africa for 2020 are projected at an average 2.3 children per woman. This is slightly lower than the global average of about 2.5. “Global fertility is projected to decline to 2.4 children per woman by 2030 and 2.2 children per woman by 2050,” notes the report.

Urogynaecologist, Dr Frances Paterson from The Urology Hospital, Pretoria, says research shows that up to 20% of South African couples struggle with infertility. Infertility affects both males and females almost equally.

Dr Paterson says couples should consult a urogynaecologist if they’re unable to conceive after having regular unprotected sex for a year. Likewise if a woman is unable to carry a baby to full term.


The World Health Organisation describes infertility as a “disease of the reproductive system; defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular, unprotected intercourse”.

There are often no obvious symptoms of infertility although some women may have irregular or absent menstrual periods. Men may display hormonal signs such as changes in hair growth or sexual function.

Causes of infertility

Some causes of infertility in women may include ovulation disorders, uterine or cervical abnormalities, fallopian tube damage or blockage, endometriosis, early menopause, pelvic adhesions and certain cancers and their treatment such as radiation and chemotherapy.

Causes in men may include increasing age, obesity, smoking, using addictive substances, radiation, nutrition, taking supplements and steroids, a high testicular temperature, infections and STIs, genital injuries and varicocoele (enlargement of veins in the scrotal sack).


“Infertility may often be successfully treated. Couples struggling to fall pregnant should contact The Urology Hospital or consult an obstetrician, gynaecologist, urologist or urogynaecologist,” added Dr Paterson.

For more information, contact 012 423-4000. Alternatively, SMS the word INFO and your email address to 33000 (SMS charged at R1.50).

About The Urology Hospital, Pretoria

The Urology Hospital, Pretoria, is the only urology centre of excellence in Africa.   With more than 20 urologists under one roof, using the latest in highly specialised technology as well as specialised urology trained nursing staff, it offers unparalleled expertise in its field. In addition, the hospital maintains its association with the academic world to ensure ongoing research, medical education and training and development in the field of urology.

The hospital prides itself on being at the forefront of technology. It was the first hospital in South Africa to perform robotic surgery. They implement a robotic pharmacy picking system. They also have one of only a handful of 3D laparoscopic surgical units in South Africa. The hospital has undergone major renovations and now offers 127 beds and seven theatres.

The Urology Hospital not only cares about patients and staff, but also for the community. They undertake numerous Corporate Social Investment initiatives throughout the year. In fact, the hospital and staff work together to assist selected charities. This includes donations to The Clothing Bank, uniforms for Sunnyside Primary School and stationery for Balebogeng Primary School.

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