Common Infertility Questions

October 8, 2011

Infertility is the inability to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse in women under 35, or after six months in women over 35, or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term. Couples who have known barriers to fertility, such as endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, male factor infertility, irregular cycles, etc., do not need to sit out the traditional waiting period to seek expert care for infertility.

What is infertility?
Infertility is the inability to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse in women under 35, or after six months in women over 35, or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term. Couples who have known barriers to fertility, such as endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, male factor infertility, irregular cycles, etc., do not need to sit out the traditional waiting period to seek expert care for infertility.

How common is infertility?
One in every six couples of childbearing age have an infertility problem. There is a female problem in 35% of the cases, a male problem in 35% of the cases, a combined problem of the couple in 20% of cases. Therefore, it is essential that both the man and the woman be evaluated during an infertility work-up. In 10% of cases, the problem is "unexplained" meaning that all testing is normal.

When should I seek help for infertility?
Conventional medical advice is to seek treatment if you have been trying to conceive for at least one year. However, if the male partner has a known or suspected low sperm count or the female partner is over 30 years old, has a history of pelvic inflammatory disease, painful periods, recurrent miscarriage, or irregular periods then we suggest seeking treatment sooner.

What are "primary" and "secondary infertility"?
Primary infertility is infertility without ever conceiving or successfully carrying a pregnancy to a live birth. Secondary infertility is the inability to conceive again after one or more successful pregnancies.

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Reprinted with permission of Alan B. Copperman, MD & Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York