Can increased use of ART retrieve the Czech Republic from the low fertility trap?

OBJECTIVE: The aim of the study was to evaluate the importance of increased use of assisted reproduction technologies (ART) for the fertility trends in the Czech Republic.

DATA AND METHODS: Comparative analysis based on demographic and ART data was used. Demographic data have been published by EUROSTAT and the Czech Statistical Office. ART data have collected by ESHRE.

FINDINGS: In the 1990s a trend towards later childbearing contributed greatly to the decline in total fertility rate (TFR) in the Czech Republic. Recently, recuperation of delayed births has resulted in the increase of TFR to 1.5 children per woman which is considered to be a critical minimum level. The highest increase in fertility rates occurred in the age group of 35-39, in which the contribution of ART treatments usually is greatest. Moreover, a substantial increase of multiple births has been registered. In 2005 the estimated share of children born after ART in the Czech Republic (3%) was close to countries with the highest share (Nordic countries, Belgium or Slovenia). However, the Czech Republic registered only half the number of ART cycles per million inhabitants than in those countries. Contrary to Nordic countries the Czech Republic faced an extremely low TFR of 1.28 children per woman. As the estimation of average number of cycles suggests, the need for fertility treatment has not been met in the Czech Republic yet. Moreover, due to the continuous postponement of childbearing to higher women s age, demand for ART treatment will be even higher in the near future and will probably result in the need of more than 2 500 cycles per million inhabitants in the Czech Republic.

CONCLUSIONS: Spreading of ART is particularly relevant in the countries caught in the low fertility trap as higher impact on fertility trends could be expected. In the Czech Republic there is a chance to get over the critical level of TFR if comprehensive population policy including the improved access to ART based on well-considered strategy with explicit aim to optimize the quality of health care was accepted. However, from the demographic perspective the risk of further delay of childbearing encouraged by ART treatment should be taken into account while making these decisions.

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