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%
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.