Infertility primarily refers to the biological inability of a person to contribute to conception. Infertility may also refer to the state of a woman who is unable to carry a pregnancy to full term.
There are many biological causes of infertility, some which may be bypassed with medical intervention.
Women who are fertile experience a natural period of fertility before and during ovulation, and they are naturally infertile during the rest of the menstrual cycle.
Fertility awareness methods are used to discern when these changes occur by tracking changes in cervical mucus or basal body temperature.
There are strict definitions of infertility used by many
doctors. However, there are also similar terms, e.g. subfertility for a
more benign condition and fecundity for the natural improbability to
conceive. Infertility in a couple can be due to either the woman or the
man, not necessarily both.
Reproductive endocrinologists, the doctors specializing in
infertility, consider a couple to be infertile if:
- the couple has not conceived after 12 months of
contraceptive-free intercourse if the female is under the age of 34.
- the couple has not conceived after 6 months of
contraceptive-free intercourse if the female is over the age of 35
(declining egg quality of females over the age of 35 account for the
age-based discrepancy as when to seek medical intervention).
- the female is incapable of carrying a pregnancy to term.
A couple that has tried unsuccessfully to have a child for a
year or more is said to be subfertile meaning less
fertile than a typical couple. The couple's fecundability rate is
approximately 3-5%. Many of its causes are the same as those of
infertility. Such causes could be endometriosis, or polycystic ovarian
Primary vs. secondary infertility
Couples with primary infertility have never
been able to conceive, while, on the other hand, secondary
infertility is difficulty conceiving after already having conceived
(and either carried the pregnancy to term, or had a miscarriage).
Technically, secondary infertility is not present if there has been a
change of partners.
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Last Updated: Feb 1, 2011