Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of regular, unprotected sex. This span is shortened to six months if the woman is over the age of 35. Women who can become pregnant but are unable to sustain the pregnancy may also be considered infertile. Approximately a third of infertility cases originate with the man, another third from the woman. The other cases may be due to problems with both partners, or due to an unknown cause.
Male infertility may be due to low sperm count, sperm damage or varicocele, which is a malformation of a vein in the scrotum. Smoking, alcohol and drug use, obesity, untreated sexually transmitted infections and certain medications or medical treatments may also contribute to sperm abnormalities.
Women’s fertility can be affected by many of the same risk factors as men, but they may also have problems within the ovaries or uterus such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids. Women who are underweight or those who are over the age of 35 may also experience difficulty conceiving. In both genders, there may be a singular reason for infertility or a combination of causes.
There are many treatments available for infertility. Basic screening is usually performed first – physical exams, sperm studies, ovulation tests, and ultrasounds. After analysis of these tests, the doctor will make recommendations for treating the problem. This may include increasing sexual activity, medication, or surgery.
Assisted conception may also be an option for some couples; medical procedures are carried out by fertility specialists with the goal of conception. These include in vitro fertilization and the use of donor eggs. These methods have varying levels of success and can have risk factors associated with them. Maintaining a relationship with a doctor as well as a counselor is beneficial.