What is Infertility?
Infertility means that you have had regular intercourse for one year without birth control and have not got become pregnant. Birth control includes birth control pills, diaphragm, condoms, or rhythm. Infertility is not the same as being sterile. Sterility is when you cannot get pregnant and the problem cannot be corrected. Fifteen to 20% of healthy adults have fertility problems. With help, many fertility problems can be treated.
Pregnancy Rate (within 12 months of trying)
20 - 24
25 - 29
30 - 34
35 - 39
Myths About Infertility
There are many myths or misinformation about the causes of infertility.
The following are some examples and the real truth about infertility.
- Infertility is a psychological problem.
Actually, a specific physical problem is found in 80 to 90% of all cases of infertility.
- Being infertile is a sexual problem.
In fact, most couples with infertility do not have any problem having intercourse.
- Adopting improves a couple’s chances of conceiving.
Unfortunately, no improvement in fertility was found in couples who adopted compared to couples who did not adopt.
- There are many other religious and cultural issues about infertility as well.
Talk to your care-givers if you are worried about any of these or other myths about being infertile.
What is the female reproductive system?
A woman’s reproductive system includes the uterus and cervix, fallopian tubes,
ovaries, and vagina.
- The uterus is the pear-shaped organ in your abdomen where a baby grows during pregnancy. The cervix is the opening at the bottom of the uterus.
- The ovaries are two egg-shaped organs on each side of the uterus. The ovaries make and release an egg each month. This is called ovulation. About 14 days later you will have your period if your egg was not fertilized.
- You have two fallopian tubes. The egg travels from the ovary into the fallopian tube. The egg may be fertilized if sperm are in the tube from recent intercourse. If fertilized with sperm, the egg travels down the tube and attaches to the endometrium. This is the lining of the uterus. It is called implantation when the egg attaches to the endometrium.
- The vagina, or birth canal, is the canal leading from the cervix to the outside of your body.
How does the female reproductive system work?
- Hormones are special chemicals that your body makes. The job of hormones is to control how different parts of your body work. Hormones made during the first half of the menstrual cycle cause the endometrium to thicken. This prepares the endometrium for the fertilized egg.
- Different hormones are made during the second half of the menstrual cycle. These hormones are necessary for the embryo after implantation. The embryo is a fertilized egg during the early weeks of growth.
- Hormone levels begin to decrease if an egg is not fertilized with sperm. This causes the menstrual period to begin again.
There are many different causes of infertility, and often there are several infertility causes in one couple. These include:
Male factor infertility
In about 25-40 percent of couples, a problem with the sperm is the cause of the infertility. The problem may be the number of sperm, the shape of the sperm, or their ability to move effectively.
In 25-30 percent of couples, there are problems with the production of the woman's egg, or ovulation. This may be the result of an abnormality in the woman's ovary (such as polycystic ovary syndrome), or other hormonal causes. These defects are treated by giving medications to stimulate ovulation.
Infertility is caused by an abnormality of the Fallopian tubes, the tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus, in 20-30 percent of couples. Tubal defects can be caused by scarring from previous surgery, infection, or a previous tubal ligation ("tying of the tubes").
There is no obvious cause of infertility in about 10-20 percent of couples.
This is a disorder in which pieces of the lining of the uterus implant themselves onto pelvic organs, including the Fallopian tubes, the ovaries, and sometimes even the intestines. This is the cause of infertility in 5-10 percent of couples.
Deciding when to go for an infertility evaluation
This largely depends on your age. Although infertility is defined as not becoming pregnant after a year of trying, some couples should be evaluated before one year of trying has passed. If you are less than 35 years old, it is reasonable to try for one year before getting a medical evaluation. However, as a woman ages, her chances of getting pregnant decrease, and an earlier evaluation is recommended.
| Age of Woman|| When to seek evaluation by an infertility specialist |
| Less than 35 years old|| After one year of trying|
| 35-40 years old|| After six months of trying|
| Over 40 years old|| Begin evaluation immediately|
Other indications of infertility