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Three people sit with their backs turned as they look at a massive wall art exhibition of black and white portraits of people's faces.

Reproductive health is now seen as a basic human right. This includes the ability to have children. Large-scale population surveys are used to identify infertility and help ensure the rights of those who are struggling to conceive. But our research has revealed some people–particularly those who are already marginalised–are falling through the gaps.

An estimated 15% of couples worldwide are infertile. But measuring infertility across populations is not easy, especially when some social groups are under the radar of survey data sources.

In our analysis of survey tools, we identify these people as the “invisible infertile”. The suffering of the invisible infertile is twofold. Those who cannot have the children they desire may experience a wide range of issues, ranging from shame and stigma to financial ruin. But because their infertility is invisible to public agencies, they may not receive the medical care and social support that they so dearly need.

Who’s missing?

In the US, a series of family growth surveys, called the Integrated Fertility Survey Series (IFSS), has collected data on fertility since the 1950s. Men were... see more