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Fertility Problems - Topic Overview

You may have fertility problems if you haven't been able to get pregnant after trying for at least 1 year. It doesn't necessarily mean you will never get pregnant. Often, couples conceive without help in their second year of trying. Some don't succeed. But medical treatments do help many couples.

Age is an important factor if you are trying to decide whether to get testing and treatment for fertility problems. A woman is most fertile in her late 20s. After age 35, fertility decreases and the risk of miscarriage goes up.

  • If you are younger than 35, you may want to give yourself more time to get pregnant.
  • If you are 35 or older, you may want to get help soon.

In cases of fertility problems:1

  • About 50 out of 100 are caused by a problem with the woman's reproductive system camera.gif. These may be problems with her fallopian tubes or uterus or her ability to ovulate (release an egg).
  • About 35 out of 100 are caused by a problem with the man's reproductive system camera.gif. The most common is low sperm count.
  • In about 10 out of 100, no cause can be found in spite of testing.
  • About 5 out of 100 are caused by an uncommon problem.

Before you have fertility tests, try fertility awareness. A woman can learn when she is likely to ovulate and be fertile by charting her basal body temperature and using home tests. Some couples find that they simply have been missing their most fertile days when trying to conceive.

If you aren't sure when you ovulate, try this Interactive Tool: When Are You Most Fertile? calculator.gif

If these methods don't help, the first step is for both partners to have some simple tests. A doctor can:

  • Do a physical exam of both of you.
  • Ask questions about your past health to look for clues, such as a history of miscarriages or pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • Ask about your lifestyle habits, such as how often you exercise and whether you drink alcohol or use drugs.
  • Do tests that check semen quality and both partners' hormone levels in the blood. Hormone imbalances can be a sign of ovulation problems or sperm problems that can be treated.

Your family doctor can do these tests. For more complete testing, you may need to see a fertility specialist.

A wide range of treatments is available. Depending on what is causing the problem, a couple may be able to:

  • Take a medicine that helps the woman ovulate.
  • Have a procedure that puts sperm directly inside the woman (insemination).
  • Have a surgery that corrects a problem caused by endometriosis or blocked fallopian tubes.
  • Have a procedure that might increase the man's sperm count.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 07, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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