Infertility FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Infertility is an emotional laden issue that can also be embarrassing to discuss with others. Some people even have a difficult time speaking with their doctors about the problem. It is important to note that no one is to blame for infertility, just like no one is to blame for leukemia or diabetes.

Infertility is a major issue and is not a small problem to be brushed aside an inconvenience. Infertility is “a disease of the reproductive system that impairs the bodys ability to perform the basic function of reproduction.” Lets look at some frequently asked questions regarding infertility.

What exactly is infertility?

Infertility is “the inability to naturally conceive a child or to carry a pregnancy to full term.” The majority of medical experts will not classify a person and/or a couple as infertile until they have been trying for at least a year to get pregnant without any success.

Women who find themselves able to become pregnant but then have repeat miscarriages are often classified as being infertile. There are numerous reasons why a couple may find themselves unable to conceive a child and medical help is often required.

How many people in the United States are infertile?

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine estimates that 6.1 million individuals residing in the United States are infertile. This works out to be approximately ten percent of those of reproductive age.

One third of the time it is due to a male factor, the other third of the time it is a female factor, the problem co-existing between the man and the woman accounts for the problem 15 percent of the time while there are still other instances where the cases of infertility is mysterious and unexplained.

How is infertility diagnosed in men?

A doctor will perform a thorough physical exam on a man and will consider his past medical history as well as the current status of his health. The man may need to undergo blood tests that look for a variety of diseases or hormonal imbalances. If those yield nothing out of the ordinary then a semen sample will need to be taken.

The sample will assess the volume of semen the man has as well as the number of sperm and how mobile the sperm are. The contents of the scrotum will need to be palpated while the patient is standing up while the peritesticular area need also be scrutinized. Some things a doctor will look for are irregularities of the epididymis, tenderness or the presence of cysts.

How is infertility diagnosed in women?

The search for infertility must begin with a look at medical history and current health as well as a complete physical. Very often other kinds of medical tests are also needed such as an endometrial biopsy which tests the health of the uterine lining, hormone tests which measure the balance of female hormones, measurements of how well the thyroid is functioning (a TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone level that lies somewhere between one and two is believed to be right for pregnancy to take place) and a laparoscopy which makes it possible for the physician to see all of the pelvic organs. A measurement of the hormone progesterone is sometimes taken when a woman is in the second half of her menstrual cycle in order to confirm that ovulation has definitely taken place.

What are the most common reasons for male infertility?

The two most common reasons for male infertility are azoospermia (which is a condition where there are no sperm cells produced at all) and oligospermia (which is when there are only a minimum of sperm cells produced).

In some instances, sperm cells do not form properly or else they die before they are able to reach an egg and fertilize it. There are rare cases where a genetic disease such as cystic fibrosis or a chromosomal abnormality is to blame for male infertility.

What are the most common reasons for female infertility?

The most common cause of female infertility is a disorder related to ovulation. An other common cause of female infertility is blocked fallopian tubes, which can take place due to endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Repeated miscarriages are often linked to birth defects (or congenital anomalies), which can involve problems with the structure or makeup of the uterus and/or uterine fibroids. Age also plays a role in a womans ability to conceive. The ovaries decline in their ability to produce eggs as a woman advances in years, and this is most readily seen after the age of 35.

What is ART?

Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) is a term that is used to describe a number of different methods that are used to help infertile couples have a baby. ART is a complex process where eggs are surgically removed from a womans body and then are mixed with sperm in a laboratory. After a set period of time if fertilization has taken place the embryos are then implanted back into a womans uterus.

When is in vitro fertilization undertaken?

In the case where a woman has blocked fallopian tubes or one of the fallopian tubes is missing all together, in vitro fertilization (IVF), which is a form of ART, is sometimes undertaken. This is also often the method that is considered if a man has a low sperm count. In vitro fertilization offers the hope of conceiving a child to couples who would otherwise have little if any chance of having their own biological offspring.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) has proven to be the most effective form of assisted reproductive technologies. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is when an egg is fertilized outside of a womans body in a laboratory.

What are some medications that are used to treat infertility in a woman?

There are some common medicines that are used to treat infertility in women. These medicines include clomiphene citrate, human menopausal gonadotropin (or hMG), follicle-stimulating hormone (or FSH), gonadotropin-releasing hormone analog, metformin and bromocriptine.

Where can more information on infertility be obtained?

For more infertility contact the National Womens Health Information Center (NWHIC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Resource Center, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Resolve: The National Infertility Association and the International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination.