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What is infertility?

September 02, 2014

From the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) fact sheet on Defining Infertility.

What is infertility?

Infertility is “the inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse.” This means that a couple is not able to become pregnant after a year of trying. However, for women aged 35 and older, inability to conceive after 6 months is generally considered infertility.

How common is it?

Infertility affects 10%-15% of couples. This makes it one of the most common diseases for people between the ages of 20 and 45. In addition, the longer a woman tries to get pregnant without conceiving, the lower are her chances to get pregnant without medical treatment. Most (85%) couples with normal fertility will conceive within a year of trying. If a couple doesn’t conceive in the first year, their chance of conceiving gets lower each month. This happens more quickly as the woman gets older.

What can cause infertility?

Age: A woman’s age can have a big effect on her ability to have a baby, especially as she enters her 30s and 40s. For a healthy woman in her 20s or early 30s, the chances of conceiving each month is 25%-30%. But by the time a woman is 40 years old, the chances are 10% or less.

Ovulation Problems

If a woman doesn’t ovulate (release an egg) about once a month, she may have trouble getting pregnant. Problems like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disease, and other hormonal disorders can affect ovulation and lead to infertility. Women who don’t have regular menstrual periods often don’t ovulate. Women who are overweight or underweight are more likely to have problems with ovulation than women of normal body weight. These women might want to see a doctor who specializes in fertility (reproductive endocrinologist) in the first year of trying to get pregnant.

Damaged or Blocked Fallopian Tubes

Fallopian tubes are the tubes attached to the uterus where the sperm and egg usually meet. Blocked or damaged tubes can cause infertility or ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus). The chances of having blocked tubes are higher in women who have or have had endometriosis, surgery in the pelvis, or sexually transmitted infections (like gonorrhea or chlamydia). Women who are concerned about the health of their tubes should discuss this with their doctor early in the process of trying to get pregnant.

ASRM is an excellent resource for reproductive facts. Please check out their patient resources website at https://www.reproductivefacts.org/.

Fairfax Cryobank Blog

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