A diagnosis of infertility means you haven’t been able
to get pregnant after a year of trying. Or, if you’re a woman over 35, it means
you haven’t been able to get pregnant after six months. Women who are able to
conceive but not carry a pregnancy to term may also be diagnosed with
Being diagnosed with infertility doesn’t mean that your
dreams of having a child have come to an end. It may take some time, but a
significant number of infertile couples will eventually be able to have a child.
Some will do so on their own. Others will need medical assistance.
According to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 11 percent of women
have difficulty conceiving and carrying a child to term. Six percent of married
women are infertile.
Infertility is not just a woman’s problem. Men can be
infertile, too. In fact, men and women are equally likely to have a fertility
problem. According to WomensHealth.gov, about one-third of infertility cases are
attributable to female infertility. However, men’s problems account for another
third of all infertility cases. The final third may be a combination of male
and female infertility, or may have no known cause.
Risk factors for infertility include:
- older age
- history of sexually transmitted
- very high or very low weight
- heavy alcohol use
Infertility occurs when a couple either has problems
getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. Knowing the steps of how pregnancy
occurs can help you to better understand a diagnosis of infertility.
Hormones control the female menstrual cycle. As part of
this cycle, they stimulate the maturation of an egg. This egg is released from
the ovary at the time of ovulation. The
follicle that remains in the ovary then produces progestin. This hormone helps prepare the uterus for implantation.
Potential problems with ovulation include:
- eggs not maturing during the
- eggs not being released from the
- ovarian failure
- insufficient progestin (this is
also known as a luteal phase defect)
The Mayo Clinic estimates that one-quarter of female
infertility is caused by ovulation problems.
The egg travels through a fallopian tube towards the
uterus. If sperm is available, it may meet and fertilize the egg in the
fallopian tube. To get to the fallopian tubes, sperm ejaculated during
intercourse must move through the cervix and uterus.
Problems with this stage of conception include:
- blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
- cervical damage
- low sperm count
- problems with sperm motility or
- blockages that prevent sperm from
getting into the semen
The fertilized egg must implant
in the lining of the uterus. Once there, it can grow and develop into a baby.
Potential problems with this
- damage to the