What is infertility?
Infertility is the term health care providers use for women who are unable to get pregnant, and for men who are unable to impregnate a woman, after at least one year of trying.
In women, the term is used to describe those who are of normal childbearing age, not those who can’t get pregnant because they are near or past menopause.
Women who are able to get pregnant but who cannot carry a pregnancy to term (birth) may also be considered infertile.
What causes infertility?
Infertility does not have a single cause because successful pregnancy is a multi-step chain of events.
Simply described, pregnancy includes the following steps: A woman’s ovaries must be able to release a viable egg, which then must be able to travel down the fallopian tube. The man must be able to ejaculate, and his sperm must be able to travel to the fallopian tube. The sperm and egg must unite to fertilize the egg. The fertilized egg must attach to the inside of a receptive uterus (or implant) and be nurtured by the body to allow the fetus to develop and grow until it is ready for birth.
Problems with any of these steps can lead to infertility.
The cause of infertility can rest in the woman or the man, or can be from unknown factors or a combination of factors. In some cases, environmental factors can contribute to infertility. In other cases, genetic conditions or other health problems are the main cause of infertility.