Anyone who has struggled with infertility will tell you this: It can be quite the roller-coaster ride. "The hardest thing for us was not having answers," says one woman, now 38. She and her 45-year-old husband were derailed for several years while doctors tried to figure out the cause of their infertility.
Unlike this couple, about 80% to 85% of U.S. couples are able to get pregnant after a year of trying. When you get past the year mark, however, it's time to seek help. If you're over age 35, it's...
A woman must release an egg from one of her ovaries (ovulation).
The egg must go through a fallopian tube toward the uterus (womb).
A man's sperm must join with (fertilize) the egg along the way.
The fertilized egg must attach to the inside of the uterus (implantation).
Infertility can result from problems that interfere with any of these steps.
Is infertility a common problem?
About 12% of women (7.3 million) in the United States aged 15-44 had difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a baby to term in 2002, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Is infertility just a woman's problem?
No, infertility is not always a woman's problem. In about one-third of cases, infertility is due to the woman (female factors). In another third of cases, infertility is due to the man (male factors). The remaining cases are caused by a mixture of male and female factors or by unknown factors.
What causes infertility in men?
Infertility in men is most often caused by:
Problems making sperm -- producing too few sperm or none at all
Problems with the sperm's ability to reach the egg and fertilize it -- abnormal sperm shape or structure prevent it from moving correctly
Sometimes a man is born with the problems that affect his sperm. Other times problems start later in life due to illness or injury. For example, cystic fibrosis often causes infertility in men.
What increases a man's risk of infertility?
The number and quality of a man's sperm can be affected by his overall health and lifestyle. Some things that may reduce sperm number and/or quality include:
Environmental toxins, including pesticides and lead