Doctors arbitrarily diagnose infertility when a couple hasn't conceived a child after 12 months of unprotected and regular sex. Impaired fertility may be a better description, though. Many women who keep trying will get pregnant in the second year or later.
By Gina Shaw
3 women, each trying to build a family, have been waiting on some important — and nerve-racking — developments. Will Jody's latest fertility treatment succeed? Will Carrie's labor go smoothly? Read about their latest challenges and triumphs.
Experts recommend visiting a doctor for an infertility evaluation after six to 12 months of unprotected and regular sex without pregnancy. Infertility testing is best done by an infertility specialist.
The first step is a detailed interview. A thorough infertility interview should involve both partners, and ask about:
Your medical histories, including any chronic illnesses or surgeries
Your use of prescription medication
Your use of caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs
Your exposure to chemicals, toxins, or radiation in the home or at work
Whether either of you has had sex outside the relationship
Infertility is due to problems related to the woman about two-thirds of the time. A doctor will likely ask a woman questions about her gynecologic history:
Have you been pregnant before and what was the outcome of those pregnancies?
How often have you had periods over the last year?
Have you had irregular and missed periods or had spotting between periods?
Have you had any changes in blood flow or the appearance of large blood clots?
What methods of birth control have you used?
Have you seen a doctor before for fertility problems and undergone treatment for them?
Infertility Tests for Women
There is no single best test or ideal workup for infertility. In practice, doctors perform multiple tests and exams to identify any problems that might be contributing to a woman's infertility.
Most women are familiar with this basic gynecologic test. The Pap smear and pelvic exam are best at detecting cervical cancer, other problems with the cervix, or active sexually transmitted diseases. Any of these can interfere with fertility in women.