Infertility

What is infertility? 

The definition of infertility is not being able to get pregnant after one year (or longer) of unprotected sex. Infertility is a problem of the reproductive system affecting the body's ability to reproduce. Infertility could be caused by a problem with the man’s system, the woman’s system, or both. For a pregnancy, these must happen: 

  • There must be healthy sperm. 
  • The eggs must be healthy.
  • The fallopian tubes must be open to let the sperm to reach the egg.
  • The sperm must be able to fertilize the egg.
  • The fertilized egg must implant in the uterus.
  • The embryo must be healthy.

Infertility is not just a woman's concern. Half the time, a male factor causes or is a part in the problem. Many couples have one or more factors contributing to the issue. 

How is infertility diagnosed? 

To diagnose infertility, both the man and the woman are tested. 

Some healthcare providers can do a basic infertility evaluation. But, many causes of infertility are best treated by a reproductive endocrinologist. This is an OB/GYN who has had education and training in infertility. He or she should be certified with the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

Your provider will test both partners to find the cause of infertility. Your provider is looking for answers to these questions:

  • Is the woman ovulating regularly? (Ovulation is when a mature egg is released from the ovary. The egg then moves down the fallopian tube where it can be fertilized.)
  • Is the man making healthy sperm?
  • Are the woman's egg and the man's sperm able to unite and grow normally?
  • Are there any problems with implantation? (Implantation is when a fertilized egg cell attaches to the wall of the uterus in early pregnancy.
  • Is the woman able to maintain the pregnancy?

Treatment options: 

Many treatments can significantly improve the odds of getting pregnant. They include hormone treatments, fertility drugs, and surgery. In addition, assisted reproduction uses various medical techniques to fertilize an egg.

Key takeaways

  • Infertility is a problem of the reproductive system. It decreases the body's ability to become pregnant.
  • Infertility can be caused by many factors.
  • Many causes of infertility are best treated by a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist.
  • Depending on the cause of infertility, there are many treatment choices for an infertile couple.
  • Treatment with medicine or surgical repair cure most cases of infertility.
  • Talk to your doctor or provider if you have concerns or questions.