About 85% of young, healthy heterosexual couples conceive after one year of trying, and about 93% are successful after two years. The standard definition of infertility is the inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse. Today, this has been modified to take age into account, and now women over 35 may be considered infertile if they have failed to conceive after trying for six months. Some specialists halve that number to three months for women over 40. If you suspect you are infertile or are at risk for being infertile, speak with a medical professional to discuss your options.
Sterility means that it is impossible for a couple to conceive a child. A diagnosis of sterility is given after a thorough examination concludes that there is no sperm production and ovulation cannot occur.
Infertility means that a couple is not sterile but for some reason has not been able to conceive a child. There are three conditions that need to be met for conception to be possible: sperm must be present, the fallopian tubes must be open, and ovulation must be able to occur. If one or more of these conditions is not met, the couple suffers from "true infertility." If all three conditions are met but the couple has failed to conceive, the diagnosis is "sub-fertility."
Once a couple is diagnosed as infertile, the doctor will perform tests to determine the cause or causes. Then treatment can begin. Today's technology often allows even truly infertile couples to conceive a child, sometimes with the assistance of a third party donor or surrogate.
People who consider undergoing IVF or other assisted reproductive techniques (ART) often do so after they have failed to conceive for 12 months. Others who have known risk factors for infertility seek treatment sooner. Reasons for this include:
The female partner is over 35 years old.
Either partner has received injuries or been diagnosed with conditions that affect fertility (endometriosis, pelvic infection, polycystic ovarian syndrome, undescended testicles).
Either partner has a family history of genetic disorders (Tay-Sachs disease, thalassemia).
The couple has not been helped by ovulation induction or infertility treatments.
The female partner has had multiple unsuccessful pregnancies for other reasons.
Single women and lesbian couples may also obtain professional assistance when attempting to conceive a child.
Not necessarily. Most couples find that they can successfully conceive with the help of medications, fertility drugs, or occasionally surgery. Only a small percentage of infertile couples - about 5% - require advanced treatments such as IVF, GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer), ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) and egg donation.