The best way to begin a definition of infertility is to first define its contrary, if for no other reason than to end the misperception that there is anything easy about getting pregnant. In (very) short, fertility relies on all of the following:
- A woman’s ovaries can release a viable egg;
- The egg can survive the trip down the fallopian tube;
- A man can ejaculate a viable sperm sample;
- The sperm can survive the trip to the fallopian tube;
- The sperm can penetrate and fertilize the egg into an embryo;
- This embryo can attach to the woman’s uterine wall;
- And through this attachment, the woman’s body can nurture an embryo into a fetus, then into a child ready for delivery into the world.
Issues at any step along the way, involving any aspect, can be a cause for infertility. However, since various definitions for the condition exist in the medical community, let’s first refer to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) which defines infertility in broad terms as “a disease of the reproductive system that impairs … the conception of children.”
Taking it a step further, some infertility specialists put forth the following conditions for infertility:
- the couple has not conceived after 12 months of unprotected intercourse (and the female is under 35)
- the couple has not conceived after 6 months of unprotected intercourse (the female is over 35)
- the female is incapable of carrying a pregnancy to term.
Many experts agree that if, in the process of trying to have a child, a couple meets one of these conditions, it may be time to seek medical help.