Infertility is generally defined as the failure to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse. This condition is more common than many people realize. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that roughly 6 million couples (or 10-12% of the reproductive age population) in the United States experience infertility. Educating yourself about what could be causing your infertility can help you take the right steps toward treatment.
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), approximately one-third of infertility cases are attributable to problems that affect women, about one-third to those affecting men, and one-third to a combination of problems in both partners. Overall, in about 20 percent of couples, infertility is unexplained.
The most important factor determining both fecundity (ability to have children) and the success of infertility treatment is female age. A female infant is born with a finite number of follicles and oocytes within her ovary. Age affects the ovaries in at least two significant ways: first, the number of ovarian follicles containing oocytes declines steadily and dramatically from about half a million at birth to about 1000 by middle age, and secondly, the incidence of chromosomal abnormalities in oocytes increases substantially after age 35. The end result of these age-related changes is reduced female fertility with increasing age. Other female factors that contribute to infertility include ovulation disorders, blocked fallopian tubes, congenital anomalies (birth defects), and uterine fibroids.
Infertility in men is most often caused by abnormal sperm production. Genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis and chromosomal abnormalities are other potential causes of male infertility.
Below you will find further information on common causes of infertility as well as a glossary of frequently encountered terms related to reproductive health and infertility treatment. This information can serve as a useful guide but it is not a substitute for consultation with a specialist. Our team of reproductive endocrinologists at the ART Institute of Washington is here to properly diagnose the cause of your infertility, determine the best course of treatment, and guide you through the treatment process. Please contact us for an appointment.