Thousands of couples each year seek medical advice because they want to have a child but find themselves unable to conceive (or to carry a pregnancy to term). In some ways, treating infertility is more complex than treating other health issues, because there are often no clear medical answers. Also, treatment is expensive, and complications can occur even in healthy people due to the complex nature of the human body. Many individuals do not have successful outcomes even with proper treatment, and some couples may be concerned about factors associated with fertility treatments such as long-term embryo custody by the participating lab.
Regardless, having children is something that is extremely important to many couples, and they choose treatment because there are options that do offer great chances of success. The first step, though, is determining whether you are actually dealing with infertility – or whether luck just hasn’t been on your side.
What Is Infertility?
Infertility means having difficulty conceiving. The term in and of itself does not identify the cause of the issue, nor does it denote whether or not the problem will be permanent. Doctors usually consider a couple to be infertile when they have been unable to conceive a child after trying for at least a year without birth control. Up to 20 percent of couples do not conceive within a year of trying – but this does not mean that they won’t conceive later, even without treatment.
Most couples do achieve pregnancy within two years, which is why some researchers consider infertility to mean the inability to conceive after two years of trying, rather than one. In some cases, however, infertility is clear and undeniable. For example, a woman may not ovulate or may have two blocked Fallopian tubes. In these cases, infertility may be called sterility.
In the past, infertility was considered a female problem. Now, it’s understood that a couple’s infertility is just as likely to stem from the male partner. Because either or both partners may be involved, it is essential that both partners undergo testing before beginning treatment.
Sometimes, infertility is particularly confusing because the couple experiencing it have already conceived a child or even multiple children. Just because you have conceived in the past, though, doesn’t mean that you can’t be infertile now. A new factor (such as infection) could have compromised the reproductive organs of either partner since the birth of the last child. Age can also be a factor; perhaps the couple is trying to conceive at a more advanced age than they were at when they conceived previously.
In general, the best course of action is always to seek medical advice if you aren’t sure. If you’ve been having sex regularly around the time of ovulation without using birth control for at least a year, see a doctor to find out for certain and learn what your options are for successfully conceiving your first – or next – child.