What is Infertility: Symptoms and Definitions of Fertility Issues

What is infertility?

“Infertility” is a term that’s frequently used to describe the difficulties couples may encounter in conceiving a baby. In fact, it’s estimated that over 7 million Americans (or 1 in 8 couples of childbearing age) experience infertility symptoms. But what exactly does that mean?

Technically, infertility is defined as an inability to conceive after a couple has had one year of regular unprotected intercourse. While there is a tendency to think of infertility as a “woman’s problem”, in reality, women and men are equally responsible when it comes to infertility issues: it is estimated that in 35% of cases, infertility issues are female, 35% of cases are male, and 30% of cases are either unexplained or the result of issues of both the man and woman.

Some common factors/conditions associated with infertility issues include:

Male Factors: These include items such as low sperm count/motility, structural abnormalities or blockages, issues with ejaculation, and immunologic disorders.

Endometriosis: A condition affecting an estimated 5 million Americans wherein endometrial tissue is found outside of the uterine cavity.

Miscarriages: A visit to an infertility specialist is strongly recommended for women who have experienced 2 or more miscarriages.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): A hormone disorder in women that is also a leading cause of infertility. Other symptoms of PCOS include increased weight, increased facial hair, skin problems (i.e. acne), and irregular or absent ovulation.

Luteal Phase Defect: When the endometrium is not adequately prepared for implantation as the result of below-normal progesterone secretion or lack of response from the endometrium to normal progesterone stimulation.

Uterine Abnormalities: Uterine factors, either congenital (at birth) or acquired (as the result of surgery or infection), can negatively impact a woman’s ability to achieve pregnancy.

When Should We Consult an Infertility Specialist?

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), women under the age of 35 should consult an infertility specialist after one year of unprotected intercourse. Women who are over 35 should consult a specialist if they have not achieved pregnancy within 6 months of regular unprotected intercourse.

Women over the age of 30 who have experienced painful monthly periods, miscarriages, cycle irregularities, pelvic inflammatory disease, or who have partners with known fertility issues, should consult their ObGyn upon deciding to try to conceive.

To learn more about increasing your chances of conceiving, click here.

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