Infertility is a disease or condition of the reproductive system often diagnosed after a couple has had one year of unprotected, well-timed intercourse, or if the woman has suffered from multiple miscarriages and the woman is under 35 years of age. If the woman is over 35 years old, it is diagnosed after 6 months of unprotected, well-timed intercourse.
Infertility is a medical problem. Approximately 30% of infertility is due to a female factor and 30% is due to a male factor. In the balance of the cases, infertility results from problems in both partners or the cause of the infertility cannot be explained.
Often there are no signs or symptoms associated with an infertility problem. Listening to your body and getting regular checkups will help to detect a problem. Early detection and treatment of a problem are often critical in achieving successful pregnancy outcomes later.
Medical technology now offers more answers and treatment options to men and women trying to conceive a child. From hormonal treatments, ovulation induction and Intrauterine insemination to more advanced technologies like in vitro fertilization, ICSI to surrogacy, egg/sperm donation and even embryo donation. For more information on treatment of infertility visit the Family Building Options section of our site.
There are a variety of medications used to treat infertility. It is important to understand the medications and what their purpose is and to speak with your physician about the medications that will be used in your specific treatment plan. Read more about Fertility Medications.
Artificial insemination is now more commonly referred to as IUI (intrauterine insemination). It is a procedure used for couples with unexplained infertility, minimal male factor infertility, and women with cervical mucus problems. The procedure uses the husband's or donor's sperm, washing and treating the sperm, and then injecting it into the woman during the time of ovulation. Read more about IUI.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) gets its name from the fact that fertilization occurs outside of the woman's body, in a lab dish instead of a woman's fallopian tubes. Typically, a woman will use ovulation stimulating drugs to produce an excess number of eggs. These eggs are surgically removed from the woman and fertilized in dish with sperm. If fertilization takes place, the physician transfers the embryo(s) into the women's uterus. Read more about IVF.
In many cases the difficulty experienced in becoming pregnant can be resolved by a gynecologist without a referral to a specialist. Often the problem comes down to timing intercourse with ovulation, which may be assessed using one of the over-the-counter urine LH test kits (ovulation predictor tests). Your OB/GYN can also conduct a basic infertility evaluation. If a problem is found during your evaluation and for more complex fertility issues, it is advised to see a specialist.
It is important to go into the visit with your doctor prepared. Visit the "Questions to Ask webpage" which lists important questions to ask your physician on a variety of topics.
This section of the RESOLVE website is made possible in part by support from The Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.