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Frequently Asked Questions About Infertility

Infertility is not an inconvenience; it's a disease of the reproductive system that impairs the body's ability to perform the basic function of reproduction.

FAQ About Infertility

Infertility is the result of a disease (an interruption, cessation, or disorder of body functions, systems, or organs) of the male or female reproductive tract which prevents the conception of a child or the ability to carry a pregnancy to delivery. The duration of unprotected intercourse with failure to conceive should be about 12 months before an infertility evaluation is undertaken, unless medical history, age, or physical findings dictate earlier evaluation and treatment.

If you've been trying to get pregnant for more than a year, you may have infertility.

Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system that impairs one of the body's most basic functions: the conception of children. Conception is a complicated process that depends upon many factors. 

  • on the production of healthy sperm by the man and healthy eggs by the woman;
  • unblocked fallopian tubes that allow the sperm to reach the egg;
  • the sperm's ability to fertilize the egg when they meet;
  • the ability of the fertilized egg (embryo) to become implanted in the woman's uterus;
  • and sufficient embryo quality.

Finally, for the pregnancy to continue to full term, the embryo must be healthy and the woman's hormonal environment adequate for its development.

When just one of these factors is impaired, infertility can result.

Infertility affects 10%-15% of couples. This makes it one of the most common diseases for people between the ages of 20 and 45. In addition, the longer a woman tries to get pregnant without conceiving, the lower are her chances to get pregnant without medical treatment. Most (85%) couples with normal fertility will conceive within a year of trying. If a couple doesn’t conceive in the first year, their chance of conceiving gets lower each month. This happens more quickly as the woman gets older.

Infertility is the inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse. This means that a couple is not able to become pregnant after a year of trying. However, for women aged 35 and older, the inability to conceive after 6 months is generally considered infertility.

No one can be blamed for infertility any more than anyone is to blame for diabetes or leukemia. In rough terms, about one-third of infertility cases can be attributed to male factors and about one-third to factors that affect women. For the remaining one-third of infertile couples, infertility is caused by a combination of problems in both partners or, in about 20 percent of cases, is unexplained.

A woman's age can have a big effect on her ability to have a baby, especially as she enters her 30s and 40s. For a healthy woman in her 20s or early 30s, the chances of conceiving each month is 25%-30%. But by the time a woman is 40 years old, the chances are 10% or less.

The most common female infertility factor is an ovulation disorder. Other causes of female infertility include blocked fallopian tubes, which can occur when a woman has had pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis (a sometimes painful condition causing adhesions and cysts). Congenital anomalies (birth defects) involving the structure of the uterus and uterine fibroids are associated with repeated miscarriages.

The most common male infertility factors include azoospermia (no sperm cells are produced) and oligospermia (few sperm cells are produced). Sometimes, sperm cells are malformed or they die before they can reach the egg. In rare cases, infertility in men is caused by a genetic disease such as cystic fibrosis or a chromosomal abnormality.

Going to see a fertility specialist may help a couple figure out why they're not conceiving. Women see a reproductive endocrinologist and men see a urologist who specializes in fertility. In some (10% or more) cases, though, there may not be an obvious reason why a couple can't conceive. This is known as unexplained infertility. Fertility treatments can often help these couples with unexplained infertility.

Couples are generally advised to seek medical help if they are unable to achieve pregnancy after a year of unprotected intercourse. The doctor will conduct a physical examination of both partners to determine their general state of health and to evaluate physical disorders that may be causing infertility. Usually, both partners are interviewed about their sexual habits in order to determine whether intercourse is taking place properly for conception.

If no cause can be determined at this point, more specific tests may be recommended. For women, these include an analysis of body temperature and ovulation, x-ray of the fallopian tubes and uterus, and laparoscopy. For men, initial tests focus on semen analysis.

Most infertility cases -- 85 to 90 percent -- are treated with conventional therapies, such as drug treatment or surgical repair of reproductive organs. Some patients are encouraged to seek In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatment.

The degree of services covered depends on where you live and the type of insurance plan you have.  Several states currently have laws that require insurers to either cover or offer to cover some form of infertility diagnosis and treatment.  HOWEVER, the laws vary greatly in their scope of what is and is not required to be covered. For more information about the specific laws for each of those states, please call your state's Insurance Commissioner's office or to learn about pending insurance legislation in your state, please contact your State Representatives.

Whether or not you live in a state with an infertility insurance law, you may want to consult with your employer's director of human resources to determine the exact coverage your plan provides. Another good source of assistance is RESOLVE, an infertility patient advocacy and information organization.

The desire to have children and be parents is one of the most fundamental aspects of being human. People should not be denied insurance coverage for medically appropriate treatment to fulfill this goal.

Infertility often creates one of the most distressing life crises a couple has faced. The long-term inability to conceive a child can evoke significant feelings of loss. Coping with the multitude of medical decisions and the uncertainties that infertility brings can create great emotional upheaval for most couples. Many couples experience anxiety, depression, and feelings of being out of control or isolated. For more information, view the FAQs About the Psychological Component of Infertility.

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Resources For You

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) is committed to providing patients with the highest quality information about reproductive care.

Infertility

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SART Fertility Experts - Environmental Impacts on Fertility

In this episode, the fertility experts discuss the impact of the environment, including air, climate, and chemical exposures on infertility.   Listen to the Episode
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Survey shows strong support for increased access to fertility treatments

A new public opinion poll reveals strong support for improved access to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). 

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Leave Your Mark! NIAW April 21-27

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National Infertility Awareness Week 2024: Leave Your Mark

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ASRM reacts to Alabama legislation

We are pleased that the legislation passed into law by the Alabama General Assembly will at least allow our members in the state to care for their patients.

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IVF at the SOTU: Fertility care expected to be major focus at State of the Union

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ASRM Responds to Proposed Alabama Legislation

We are proud of our Alabama members and their patients, who have been such incredible advocates working to motivate their legislators to protect IVF.

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Senate Budget Hearing is Well Timed Following Alabama IVF Ruling

ASRM statement regarding the Senate Budget Committee’s hearing entitled: No Rights to Speak of: The Economic Harms of Restricting Reproductive Freedom.

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ASRM Responds to Senate’s Failure to Pass Access to Family Building Act

We are disappointed by the Senate’s failure to meet the moment and pass federal legislation protecting access to in vitro fertilization (IVF).

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Society of Reproductive Biologists and Technologists (SRBT) Condemns Recent Court Decision in Alabama

The recent ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court that frozen embryos are legally considered people has sparked controversy and concern.

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ASRM Condemns Profoundly Misguided and Dangerous Court Decision in Alabama

In LePage v Mobile Infirmary Clinic, the Alabama Supreme Court made a decision that flies in the face of medical reality and the needs of the citizens.

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SART Fertility Experts - Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and Implantation Failure

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SART Fertility Experts - Navigating IVF as a Couple

Mary Casey Jacob, PhD is interviewed by Dr. Daniel Grow, and together they explore the emotional and practical support that couples need. Listen to the Episode
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Male Fertility Journey

About 20% of infertility cases are due to a male factor alone. Another 30% involves both male and female factors.

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Female Fertility Journey

If you've been trying to get pregnant for more than a year, you may have infertility. Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system that impairs one of the body's most basic functions: the conception of children.

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SART Fertility Experts - Endometriosis

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SART Fertility Experts - Recurrent Pregnancy Loss

Candace discusses her experience with infertility, IVF, multiple pregnancy losses and ultimately a successful delivery with Dr. Julia Woodward.
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SART Fertility Experts - Financial Aspects of Infertility Treatment

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SART Fertility Experts - Infertility Advocacy and Government Affairs

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SART Fertility Experts - Your Infertility Nurse: Partner in Your Care

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SART Fertility Experts - RESOLVE and Infertility

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SART Fertility Experts - Safe Surfing: The Pros and Perils of Social Media

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SART Fertility Experts - What is an REI?

These experts in infertility lead IVF programs, perform reproductive surgery, and perform research to enhance the field of reproductive medicine. Listen to the Episode
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Stress and Infertility

Medical procedures, cost, outcome uncertainty, and unwanted or unhelpful advice from friends and family are stressors associated with infertility treatment. Watch Video
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Infertility: an Overview (booklet)

Infertility is typically defined as the inability to achieve pregnancy after one year of unprotected intercourse. View the booklet
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Optimizing Natural Fertility

Before attempting pregnancy, a woman should make sure she is healthy enough for pregnancy by adopting a healthier lifestyle and taking prenatal vitamins. If she has a medical or genetic condition or risk of one, she should seek advice from a medical professional before conceiving (becoming pregnant) View the fact sheet
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Optimizing Male Fertility

About 20% of infertility cases are due to a male factor alone. Another 30% involves both male and female factors. View the fact sheet
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Male Fertility and Infertility - a patient education video

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Infertility

Infertility is the result of a disease (an interruption, cessation, or disorder of body functions, systems, or organs) of the male or female reproductive tract which prevents the conception of a child or the ability to carry a pregnancy to delivery.  Watch Video
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Basic Infertility Evaluation

Dr. Roger Lobo of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine discusses the various methods to evaluate infertility. Watch Video
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Understanding Fertility

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Surviving the Roller Coaster Emotions of Infertility Treatment

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Age and Fertility (booklet)

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What is Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL)?

This is a condition when a woman has 2 or more clinical pregnancy losses (miscarriages) before the pregnancies reach 20 weeks. View the fact sheet
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Endometriosis: Does It Cause Infertility?

When tissue like the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus (endometrium) is found outside the uterus, it is termed “endometriosis.” View the Fact Sheet
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What is Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (Also Called Premature Ovarian Failure)?

When a woman’s ovaries stop working before age 40, she is said to have premature ovarian insufficiency (POI).  View the fact sheet
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What is intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)?

A procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) can be done along with in vitro fertilization (IVF) if a sperm cannot penetrate the outer layer of an egg. Read the Fact Sheet
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Acupuncture and Infertility Treatment

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Male infertility evaluation: what do I need to know?

Infertility is the inability to achieve pregnancy after one year of unprotected sex. View the fact sheet
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Saline infusion sonohysterogram (SHG)

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Sexual dysfunction and infertility

Sexual dysfunction is a problem in a person’s sexual desire, arousal, or orgasm. View the fact sheet
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Testosterone use and male infertility

Testosterone (also referred to as “T”) is a hormone produced in men by the testes (testicles). View the fact sheet
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What are fibroids?

Uterine fibroids (also called myomas or leiomyomas) are benign (noncancerous) tumors of muscle tissue found in the uterus. View the fact sheet
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What is In Vitro Maturation (IVM)?

In vitro maturation (IVM) is when a woman’s eggs are collected and matured outside the body. This is done as part of an in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure. View the fact sheet
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Stress and infertility

It is not clear how exactly stress impacts fertility. Read the Fact Sheet
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Hyperprolactinemia (High Prolactin Levels)

Prolactin is a hormone produced by your pituitary gland which sits at the bottom of the brain. Read the fact sheet
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Defining Infertility

Infertility is “the inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse.” View the Fact Sheet
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Fertility Rights and Responsibilities

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Smoking and infertility

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Infertility Counseling and Support: When and Where to Find It

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Endometriosis

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Causes of Female Infertility

Dr. Roger Lobo, of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine explains the causes of female infertility. Watch Video
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Causes of Male Infertility

Dr. Roger Lobo, of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine explains the causes of male infertility. Watch Video
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Diagnostic Testing for Male Factor Infertility

When a couple has trouble having a baby, there's about a 50-50 chance that the man has a problem contributing to the pregnancy.

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FAQ About Infertility

Infertility is not an inconvenience; it's a disease of the reproductive system that impairs the body's ability to perform the basic function of reproduction. Learn the facts
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FAQ About the Psychological Component of Infertility

Infertility often creates one of the most distressing life crises that a couple has ever experienced together. Learn the facts
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Mary Dolan's Story

I was diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve/premature ovarian failure at 28 years old.
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Infertility Infographics

ASRM has prepared infographics to illustrate the subject of Infertility better. View the infographics