How much IVF does Italy perform, anyway?

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Gay fashion icons Dolce and Gabbana blame a traditional Italian upbringing for their now infamous anti-in vitro views—but despite Italy’s rather draconian IVF policies, fertility treatment is common in the country.

Fusion looked at available data for annual IVF cycles in developed nations. If we lost you at “cycle,” that’s the technical term for each IVF procedure, in which embryos are inserted into a woman’s uterus with the hope of leading to pregnancy. Only about 20 to 25 percent of cycles result in a successful birth—there are about 1.5 million cycles performed worldwide each year, and about 350,000 IVF babies are born annually.

While Japan and the U.S. perform the most IVF cycles annually, Europe appears to be the most active region for cycles, accounting for 55 percent worldwide. Among European countries, Italy performs the fourth highest number of cycles annually.


Note that these numbers are not adjusted for population size. When examined on a per capita basis, Israel is widely considered the number one country for IVF procedures, with approximately 4,000 IVF cycles per million people. For comparison, Japan performs approximately 2,000 cycles per million people.

As Fusion reported this week, Italy has a history of restrictive IVF laws—in fact, it’s still illegal for single people and same-sex couples to seek the procedure. It’s also, of course, a deeply Catholic country—eighty-seven percent of the population reports belonging to the religion. So what’s fueling Italy’s IVF activity?

Socialized medicine, according to David Adamson, the chair of the International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ICMART), an organization that tracks the rate of IVF procedures worldwide. “The economics are absolutely critical,” he told Fusion. Relatively speaking, Italy has a “very good healthcare system,” Adamson explained, and as a result, the country has an active IVF industry.


The most recent data available on regional IVF cycles is from 2011, since accurate data collection in this field takes three years to mature. Last year, Italy loosened its restrictions on sperm and egg donation, so it will be interesting to note the impact over the next few years.

Note that IVF reporting varies by region, and numbers for much of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are still unavailable.


Cleo Stiller is a digital producer covering the intersections of sex, tech and culture. Words to live by: get your money's worth.