Understanding Infertility

understanding fertility
photo by Patrick Henry

Infertility is (in most cases) a treatable medical problem defined as a disease or condition of the male or female reproductive system which inhibits a couple's ability to conceive after a year (six months for women over age 35) of unprotected intercourse, or to carry a pregnancy to term. "Primary infertility" is defined as infertility without any previous pregnancy. Secondary infertility occurs in a couple that has conceived naturally and gave birth to a child in the past.

Infertility affects over 6 million people in the U.S. alone, or approximately one out of every six couples. A number of factors may cause the condition, with over half of all couples having more than one cause. Infertility is equally likely to occur in either men or women; approximately 35 percent of infertility cases are due to a problem with either the man or the woman, 20 percent are due to a problem involving both partners and 10 percent are unexplained.

When the cause of infertility has been determined, a plan may be customized to meet your individual needs. Nearly all cases (85-90 percent) are treatable with medical therapies such as drug treatment, surgical repair of reproductive organs or assisted reproductive technologies. According to the Centers for Disease Control:

Two-thirds of the couples who seek medical attention for infertility will conceive a child.
  • 7.3 million women ages 15 to 44 have an impaired ability to have children
  • 2.1 million married couples are infertile
  • 9.3 million women use infertility services

More infertility statistics can be found here.

It is important to remember that, although infertility is often seen as a "female problem," men have a role in over half of infertility cases (American Urology Assoc.)

First things first, if you believe you or your partner has an issue, find a fertility specialist that you feel comfortable with and know that they have your best interest at heart. A fertility specialist is usually an obstetrician/ gynecologist with advanced education, research, and professional skills in Reproductive Endocrinology (RE).


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