A diagnosis of infertility means you haven’t been able to get pregnant after a year of trying. If you’re a woman over 35, it means you haven’t been able to get pregnant after 6 months of trying.

Women who are able to conceive but not carry a pregnancy to term may also be diagnosed with infertility.

A woman who’s never been able to get pregnant will be diagnosed with primary infertility. A woman who’s had at least one successful pregnancy in the past will be diagnosed with secondary infertility.

Infertility isn’t just a woman’s problem. Men can be infertile too. In fact, men and women are equally likely to have fertility problems.

According to the Office on Women’s Health, about one-third of infertility cases can be attributed to female infertility while men’s problems account for another third of infertility cases.

The remaining third of cases may be caused by a combination of male and female infertility, or they may have no known cause.

Generally speaking, infertility in men is related to issues with the following:

There are a variety of risk factors, medical conditions, and medications that can also affect fertility.

Risk factors

Risk factors associated with infertility in men include, but aren’t limited to:

Medical conditions

Some examples of medical conditions that can cause male infertility include:

Medications and drugs

Various medications and drugs can also affect male fertility, such as:

The bottom line

Any of these things, or even a combination of them, could lead to infertility in men. Learn about the signs of male infertility.

Female infertility can be caused by a variety of factors that affect or interfere with the following biological processes:

  • ovulation, when the mature egg is released from the ovary
  • fertilization, which occurs when sperm meets the egg in the fallopian tube after traveling through the cervix and uterus
  • implantation, which occurs when a fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus where it can then grow and develop into a baby

Risk factors

Risk factors for female infertility include:

Medical conditions

A variety of medical conditions can affect the female reproductive system and cause infertility in women.

Examples include:

Medications and drugs

Certain medications and drugs that can affect female infertility include:

The bottom line

According to the Mayo Clinic, ovulation problems cause around one-quarter of the infertility issues seen in couples. An irregular or absent period are two signs that a woman may not be ovulating.

Find out more information about the signs of female infertility.

If you’ve been trying to conceive and haven’t been able to, you’re likely wondering when you should plan to see a doctor.

Read on to discover which tests they’ll perform to assess the fertility of you and your partner.

Men

Men should plan to see a doctor after one year of trying to conceive or if any of the following apply:

Your doctor will first take your medical history. During this time, they’ll ask about your overall health, your sexual history, and factors that could affect your fertility. They’ll also perform a physical examination where they check your genitals for any structural abnormalities or lumps.

A semen analysis will likely then be performed. Your doctor will ask you to provide a sample of semen. This sample will then be checked in a laboratory to see how many sperm are present and whether the sperm are shaped normally and moving properly.

Depending on the results of your initial exam and semen analysis, your doctor may want to perform additional tests.

These tests may include:

Women

A woman’s fertility begins to decrease following age 30. Women under 35 should visit a doctor after one year of trying to get pregnant while women 35 and over should visit a doctor after 6 months of trying.

Your doctor will first take your medical history. They’ll ask about the current state of your health, your sexual history, and any conditions or illnesses that could contribute to infertility.

Then they’ll perform an examination of your pelvic area to check for abnormalities such as fibroids or conditions such as endometriosis or PID.

Your doctor will want to see if you’re ovulating every month. This can be determined with an at-home ovulation testing kit or through blood testing at the doctor’s office.

An ultrasound may also be used to examine the ovaries and uterus.

Other common tests for women include:

If you and your partner have been trying to get pregnant and haven’t been able to, you may wish to seek treatment. The type of treatment that’s recommended can depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • the cause of infertility, if known
  • how long you’ve been trying to conceive
  • your ages
  • the overall health of both you and your partner
  • the personal preferences of you and your partner, following consultation about your treatment options

Men

Male infertility can be treated in a variety of ways, depending on the cause. Treatment options for men can include surgery, medication, and assisted reproductive technology (ART).

Surgery can fix obstructions that are preventing sperm from being present in the ejaculate. It can also correct conditions such as varicocele. In some cases, sperm can be retrieved directly from the testicles after which it can be used in ART treatments.

Medications can be used to treat issues such as hormonal imbalances. They can also be used to treat other conditions that can affect male fertility, such as ED or infections that affect sperm count.

ART refers to treatments in which eggs and sperm are handled outside of the body. It can include treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Sperm for ART treatments can be received from ejaculate, extraction from the testicles, or a donor.

Women

The treatment for female infertility can also involve surgery, medication, and reproductive assistance such as ART. Sometimes several types of treatment are needed to help address female infertility.

Although surgery can sometimes be used to treat female infertility, it has become rarer now due to advancements in other fertility treatments. Surgery can improve fertility by:

Reproductive assistance can involve methods such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and ART. During IUI, millions of sperm are injected into a woman’s uterus near the time of ovulation.

IVF is one type of ART and involves the removal of eggs that are then fertilized with a man’s sperm in a laboratory. After fertilization, the embryo is placed back into the uterus.

The medications used to treat female infertility work like hormones that are naturally present in the body to either encourage or regulate ovulation.

The bottom line

There’s a myriad of fertility drugs available. Explore the many different types of fertility drugs here.

Natural treatments can include methods such as acupuncture and yoga.

One 2018 review found that at least 29 percent of couples had tried some form of natural or alternative infertility treatment, either alone or to complement traditional treatments.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture involves the insertion of small, thin needles into various points of the body. It’s believed that these points can help stimulate the body’s energy flow.

There’s no definitive evidence to support acupuncture as a treatment for infertility.

A recent review of multiple clinical trials did find limited evidence that acupuncture could improve both ovulation and menstruation in women with PCOS. Get additional information on acupuncture and infertility.

Yoga

Yoga incorporates postures and breathing techniques to promote relaxation and decrease stress levels.

Studies on yoga as an infertility treatment are limited. However, it’s believed that practicing yoga can be beneficial in relieving the stress that can be associated with undergoing fertility treatments.

Vitamins

Various vitamins and minerals can be beneficial in promoting fertility.

Some to look out for include:

You can also consider other supplements, such as probiotics, which can promote healthy digestion and improve overall wellness. Discover other nutrients that may help you get pregnant.

Tea

A variety of fertility teas are commercially available for purchase, but do they work?

Investigations into the effects of these tea formulations on fertility are extremely limited. However, one recent review found that antioxidant compounds found in green tea may help fertility by improving parameters such as sperm count and motility.

Essential oils

Essential oils are derived from plants, typically from their roots, seeds, or leaves. They may be utilized in aromatherapy to promote relaxation and reduce stress levels. Aromatherapy can involve massaging with, bathing with, or burning essential oils.

Further research is needed to evaluate the effects that essential oils may have on fertility.

For women, fertility-boosting food recommendations are aimed at improving infertility caused by problems with ovulation. Therefore, they won’t work for infertility that’s caused by physical conditions such as a block in the fallopian tubes or uterine fibroids.

Some dietary recommendations for boosting fertility include:

Following these recommendations, and eating a nutrient-rich diet in general, can also help men improve the health of their sperm.

Implementing dietary changes along with lifestyle changes such as being more active can help promote fertility. Get more tips for boosting fertility through changing the way you eat and exercise.

Women are most fertile around the time that they ovulate. Tracking your ovulation and then concentrating your sexual activity around this time can improve your chances of conceiving.

Ovulation occurs one day out of the month. At this time, your ovaries release a mature egg, which begins to travel through your fallopian tubes. If the egg encounters sperm during its journey, fertilization can occur.

If an egg isn’t fertilized, it will die within about 24 hours of ovulation. However, sperm can live within a woman’s body for up to five days, increasing the chances of fertilization. Because of this, you’re actually fertile for around five to six days out of the month.

Ovulation doesn’t occur at the same time every month, so it’s important to recognize the signs of ovulation. These can include bodily changes such as abdominal cramping and a small rise in body temperature. Discover other ways to tell when you’re most fertile.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 12.1 percent of U.S. women 15 to 44 years old have difficulty conceiving and carrying a child to term. Nearly 7 percent of married women in this age group are infertile.

Additionally, according to the CDC, 7.3 million women between ages 15 and 44 have used infertility services. That accounts for about 12 percent of women within that age group.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that a woman in her 30s is half as fertile as a woman in her early 20s.

The Office on Women’s Health estimates that around 20 percent of women in the United States are now having their first child after age 35. This makes age a growing contributing factor toward infertility.

Around 9 percent of men have experienced issues with fertility. Although male fertility can also decline with increasing age, it declines more slowly than female fertility.

Being diagnosed with infertility doesn’t mean that your dreams of having a child have come to an end. It may take some time, but a number of couples who experience infertility will eventually be able to have a child. Some will do so on their own, while others will need medical assistance.

The treatment that’s right for you and your partner will depend on many factors, including your ages, the cause of the infertility, and your personal preferences. Similarly, whether or not a specific infertility treatment results in a pregnancy can depend on many factors.

In some cases, a fertility problem may not be able to be treated. Depending on the circumstances, your doctor may suggest that you and your partner consider donor sperm or eggs, surrogacy, or adoption.

The landscape of fertility in the United States continues to be dynamic, with many changes in attitudes and cultural norms. Check out this report on the current state of fertility.

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Jill Seladi-Schulman is a freelance writer from Atlanta, GA. She received her PhD in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from Emory where her dissertation was centered on influenza morphology. She has a passion for science and health communication and enjoys writing on all sorts of health-related topics – although she will always have a soft spot for infectious disease. Jill is also an avid reader, loves to travel, and enjoys writing fiction.