Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system that inhibits a couple's ability to have a baby. Approximately 7 million, or 1 in 6 couples, will have difficulty conceiving and may need medical help to identify and treat the possible causes of infertility.
The standard definition of infertility is the inability to achieve a pregnancy after one year of unprotected intercourse in couples where the woman is under age 35. Because a woman's fertility declines naturally as she gets older, couples should consider seeking medical help after six months of trying when the female partner is over age 35. To illustrate this point, the natural pregnancy rate for women under 30 is 20-30% per month, but by age 40 the likelihood of conception occurring drops to less than 5% per month.
Infertility affects men and women equally without discrimination and for this reason both partners should actively participate in the diagnosis and treatment process. 40% of all infertility cases may be attributed to the woman, 40% to the man, in 10% of cases both partners contribute to the problem, and 10% of the time the cause cannot be identified and it is unexplained.
When a couple meets the definition of infertility or if they suspect infertility because of a known pre-existing condition that may prevent them from conceiving, it is time to seek medical help. The most common approach couples take is for the woman to speak to her OB/Gyn about her inability to conceive. The OB/Gyn will discuss the couple's medical history, conduct a physical and then recommend a routine infertility work-up to determine the cause of the problem.
If after speaking with the OB/Gyn a couple's infertility persists, or age is an issue, the next step would be to consult with a fertility specialist. An infertility specialist is a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). A RE is a physician who is trained in Obstetrics and Gynecology and who has completed a fellowship, usually 2-3 years, in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, and focuses all of his or her time, training, and attention on the treatment of infertility.
Today there are many treatment options available to help couples overcome infertility. From low tech treatments such as ovulation induction and Intrauterine Insemination to the more advanced options like In Vitro Fertilization.