Infertility is typically defined as the inability to achieve pregnancy after one year of unprotected intercourse. However women who are 30 years or older should begin their infertility evaluation after about six months of unprotected intercourse rather than a year, so as not to delay treatment. Also, in women with very irregular menstrual cycles (suggesting anovulation), or if the partner has a known fertility problem, one should not wait for an entire year before seeking treatment. One out of seven couples, have trouble conceiving. During this time, it is normal to experience feelings of frustration, jealousy and anger. However, once one begin to explore the medical options, one will find that fertility treatments offer more hope for a successful pregnancy than ever before.
The Process of Conception
In order to understand the fertility tests and treatments, it is important to understand how conception naturally occurs. First, the ovary must release an egg (ovulation), which must be picked up by the fallopian tube. The egg must be fertilized within 24 hours after its release. The man must have an erection and ejaculate enough semen to deliver the sperm into the vagina. There must be enough sperm, and it must be the right shape and move in the right way. Sperm must travel through the vagina, into the uterus, and up into the fallopian tube in order to fertilize the egg. The woman must have a healthy vaginal and uterine environment to encourage the transport of sperms to the egg. Sperm are capable of fertilizing the egg for up to 72 hours. Fertilization usually takes place in the fallopian tube. The fertilized egg, or embryo, travels down to the uterus, where it implants in the uterine lining. The uterus and its lining must be normal enough to be able to implant the embryo. Infertility results when a problem develops in any part of this process.
There are many causes of infertility. The main causes are as follows:
Many of the risk factors for both male and female infertility are the same. They include:
Treatment will depend on the cause of the infertility.