In 1997, the proportion of sperm injection treatments - in which sperm is injected into a female egg - compared to in vitro fertilization (IVF) across Europe, was 44%. By 2001, sperm injection accounted for 48%. The latest survey found there were more than 122,000 sperm injection treatments in Europe in 2002, compared with 113,000 IVF treatments, pushing the proportion of injection up to 52% of the total.
Experts said Wednesday there are many possible explanations for the increasing popularity of the sperm injection approach. For example, the numbers could be showing that infertility may now affect more men than women. However, they could also be reflecting the possibility that doctors in private clinics are increasingly opting for the more sophisticated sperm injection because it brings in more money than IVF, said Dr. Anders Nyboe Andersen, head of the fertility clinic at Copenhagen University. Andersen conducted the survey on behalf of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. It could also mean that men with infertility problems are now more willing to seek help rather than there being a real increase in male infertility. Or just that the technology is only now being widely adopted.
"The truth is we don't know," said Andersen, presenting his findings at the close of the organization's annual conference.