Infertility FAQs

What is infertility?

Infertility is a lack of pregnancy after one year of unprotected sex. Infertility is not just a woman’s problem. It can be related to problems with the female partner, the male partner, or both. In about one third of cases, both partners have problems.

How common are fertility problems?

About 11 percent of women ages 15–44 in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. (Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

How long should I wait before seeing a fertility doctor?

We usually suggest seeing a fertility specialist if you have been trying to get pregnant for one year. However, because a woman’s chance of conceiving a child decreases with age, we suggest women 35 years or older see a specialist if they are not pregnant after 6 months of trying. You also should see a specialist if you have certain medical conditions that make it harder to conceive a child.

What causes a woman’s infertility?

Conception is a complicated process that requires the right balance of hormones, and the proper function of a woman’s uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Any problem with hormone levels or one of these female structures can affect fertility.

What increases a woman’s risk of infertility?

  • Age. As a woman ages, her ovaries have fewer eggs, the ovaries are less able to release eggs, and the eggs are not as healthy. As her age increases, so does the risk that other health problems may limit her ability to become pregnant and carry the child full term.
  • Absent menstrual periods – related to weight gain or loss, or physical or emotional stress
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Illicit drug use
  • Some sexually transmitted diseases
  • Previous pelvic surgery
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus

What causes a man’s infertility?

Most male infertility is related to sperm. Sometimes no sperm or too few sperm are produced, or the movement or shape of the sperm doesn’t enable them to reach and fertilize an egg.

What increases a man’s risk of infertility?

  • Problems with the testicles, including infection, trauma, certain medications, or large or varicose veins known as varicocele
  • Medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and cystic fibrosis
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Testosterone supplements or anabolic steroid use
  • Smoking
  • Illicit drug use
  • Exposure to chemotherapy, radiation and environmental toxins such as pesticides, heavy metals or industrial chemicals.
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