The Facts About Infertility

Most people of childbearing age assume that once they decide to have a baby, stop using birth control and have unprotected sexual intercourse, pregnancy will occur on schedule. Unfortunately, for six million American men and women who can control other aspects of their lives, the ability to achieve pregnancy is beyond their control and requires appropriate medical intervention.

In fact, one in six couples (17%) trying to get pregnant will experience some degree of infertility. The causes of infertility are numerous and can be attributed to problems with either the male or female reproductive systems. Infertility affects both men and women, with 40% of infertility diagnoses traced only to the female partner and 20% traced only to the male partner. In approximately 30% of infertility cases, a problem exists in both the male and female partners, and 10% of all couples experience unexplained infertility, when no specific cause can be identified in either partner. 

Infertility is most often defined as the inability to achieve pregnancy following one year of unprotected sexual intercourse, or two or more miscarriages. If pregnancy does not occur after one year, it is recommended that patients seek medical evaluation and diagnosis by an infertility specialist. Women over age 35 years who do not achieve pregnancy should seek medical evaluation by an infertility specialist after six months of unprotected sexual relations. A woman’s obstetrician / gynecologist is often the first doctor consulted.

As soon as it is determined that there may be a problem achieving pregnancy, couples should seek a medical consultation and evaluation from a physician specializing in reproductive medicine and infertility treatment. These medical specialists – reproductive endocrinologists – are OB/GYNs who have completed an additional two to three years of training in reproductive medicine and infertility treatment and passed rigorous examinations. They are highly skilled and experienced in the advanced reproductive technologies commonly used today to treat infertility.

Because infertility disorders can occur in either partner, both the male and female should undergo a complete medical evaluation and testing to determine the cause or causes of infertility and then to identify the most appropriate treatment options available.

There may be conditions that either cause or contribute to the inability to conceive which warrant medical evaluation after six months or less of unprotected intercourse, including:


  • over the age of 35
  • irregular or absent periods
  • hormone imbalance
  • smoking or alcohol use
  • abnormalities of the uterus
  • breast discharge
  • excessive acne or hirsutism
  • obesity
  • prior use of an intrauterine device (IUD)
  • pelvic inflammatory infections
  • endometriosis
  • fibroids
  • prior pelvic surgery
  • prior operation on the cervix
  • cervical infections


  • prostate infections
  • prior testicle injury
  • varicocele
  • a history of sexually transmitted disease


  • problems having intercourse
  • two or more miscarriages
  • cervical infections
  • prior history of infertility