The World Health Organization changed the definition of infertility—here's why.

By Julia Naftulin
Updated April 22, 2019

The World Health Organization wants to give “infertility” a new definition, so it’s not just a medical condition, the Telegraph reports.

The WHO's current infertility definition is “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.” But under the new definition of infertility, a person who wants to become a parent doesn’t have to be in a sexual relationship—or one that could lead to a pregnancy—to qualify as “infertile.”

David Adamson, MD, one of the authors of the new guidelines, told the Telegraph the change is designed to reflect “the rights of all individuals to have a family, and that includes single men, single women, gay men, gay women.”

The new wording is so meaningful because it could lead to policy changes around the world—specifically, greater access to fertility treatments such as in-vitro fertilization.

There's no doubt the WHO will receive backlash for the controversial move. But this new definition of infertility has the potential to become a great equalizer of reproductive rights: “It fundamentally alters who should be [classified as infertile] and who should have access to healthcare,” said Dr. Adamson. "It sets an international legal standard."

According to the Telegraph, the revision (which as not yet been publicly announced by the WHO) will be sent to health ministers next year.