Infertility is defined as an inability to become pregnant after trying to conceive for 12 consecutive months, or for six consecutive months for women 35 years of age or older. Women who have been trying to conceive for a prolonged period of time but have not become pregnant should schedule an office consultation to discuss the issue and learn about diagnostic tests that can help determine if they’re infertile as well as pinpoint the underlying cause.
Why does infertility occur?
Infertility issues can occur in men as well as women. For women, the most common causes include:
- Older age
- The presence of large uterine fibroids or adhesions (scars)
- Abnormalities in the ovaries, fallopian tubes or uterus that can interfere with fertilization or implantation of the egg once it’s fertilized
- Overproduction of mucus in the cervix (the uterine opening) that makes it harder for sperm to reach the egg
- Endometriosis, a condition that occurs when tissue that normally lines the uterus begins to grow outside the uterus
In men, infertility usually involves issues that affect the sperm structure, its motility (the ability to move normally) or its concentration (such as having a low sperm count or a low number of sperms released with the ejaculate). Chronic health issues, genetics problems and some medical treatments including treatments for cancer can also interfere with the ability to become pregnant.
How is infertility diagnosed?
Several tests are available to evaluate infertility issues, including blood tests, diagnostic imaging tests, semen analysis and evaluations of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. The type of testing will depend on the issues the patient is experiencing as well as the medical histories of each partner.
How is infertility treated?
Infertility treatment often begins with infertility medications or hormone therapy designed to help regulate the fertility cycle. If these steps fail or are not appropriate, other treatments like surgery, in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI) may also be used. IVF and IUI have success rates ranging from about 20 percent to about 40 percent.