Infertility

Infertility refers to an inability to conceive after having regular unprotected sex. Infertility can also refer to the biological inability of an individual to contribute to conception, or to a female who cannot carry a pregnancy to full term. In many countries infertility refers to a couple that has failed to conceive after 12 months of regular sexual intercourse without the use of contraception.

What are the causes of infertility?

Tubal factors. Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes prevent sperm from getting to your egg and also prevent the fertilized egg from getting to your uterus. Leading causes of tube problems include pelvic inflammatory disease, sexually transmitted infections (such as chlamydia), and previous sterilization surgery.

Pregnancy is the result of a process that has many steps.

To get pregnant—

  • A woman’s body must release an egg from one of her ovaries (ovulation).
  • A man’s sperm must join with the egg along the way (fertilize).
  • The fertilized egg must go through a fallopian tube toward the uterus (womb).
  • The fertilized egg must attach to the inside of the uterus (implantation).

Infertility may result from a problem with any or several of these steps.

Impaired fecundity is a condition related to infertility and refers to women who have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.

How do doctors treat infertility?

Infertility can be treated with medicine, surgery, intra-uterine insemination, or assisted reproductive technology. Many times these treatments are combined. Doctors recommend specific treatments for infertility based on—

  • The factors contributing to the infertility.
  • The duration of the infertility.
  • The age of the female.
  • The couple’s treatment preference after counseling about success rates, risks, and benefits of each treatment option.

What things increase a woman’s risk of infertility?

Female fertility is known to decline with—

  • Age. Many women are waiting until their 30s and 40s to have children. In fact, about 20% of women in the United States now have their first child after age 35, and this leads to age becoming a growing cause of fertility problems. About one-third of couples in which the woman is older than 35 years have fertility problems. Aging not only decreases a woman’s chances of having a baby but also increases her chances of miscarriage and of having a child with a genetic abnormality.
  • Aging decreases a woman’s chances of having a baby in the following ways—
    • Her ovaries become less able to release eggs.
    • She has a smaller number of eggs left.
    • Her eggs are not as healthy.
    • She is more likely to have health conditions that can cause fertility problems.
    • She is more likely to have a miscarriage.
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