Frequently Asked Questions About Infertility

When you’re worried about fertility, you want answers. You need to understand both the challenges and the potential solutions, so we’re here to help. We encourage you to read through these frequently asked infertility questions. Our experts are ready to help in any way they can.

Learn more about the Center for Reproductive Medicine at Henry Ford Health.

What is infertility?

Infertility means you can’t get pregnant after one year of unprotected sex. It’s not just a woman’s problem. Both men and women can get diagnosed with infertility. In about one-third of cases, both partners face challenges.

How common are fertility problems?

About 11 percent of women ages 15 to 44 in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. And roughly 9 percent of men ages 15 to 64 in the country are infertile.

How long should I wait before seeing a fertility doctor?

We usually suggest seeing a fertility specialist if you have been trying to get pregnant for one year. However, we also suggest women 35 years and older see a specialist after 6 months of trying. Women’s chances of conceiving a child decrease with age. Also, see a specialist if you have certain medical conditions that make it harder to conceive.

What causes a woman’s infertility?

Getting pregnant is a complicated process. It requires the right balance of hormones [link to revised page]for starters. The woman’s uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries also need to function. Plus, a man needs enough active sperm. A problem with any of these factors can affect fertility.

What increases a woman’s risk of infertility?

For women, a number of factors can affect fertility, including:

  • Absent menstrual periods: Women can become infertile if periods stop or are inconsistent. That change can happen because of weight gain or loss or physical or emotional stress. It also happens naturally with menopause.
  • Age: As a woman ages, her ovaries contain fewer eggs and are less able to release them. The eggs are also not as healthy. Additionally, aging raises the risk of health problems that may limit the ability to become pregnant and carry a child to full term.
  • Certain medical conditions: Some conditions that can cause infertility include diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • Heavy alcohol use: Drinking too much alcohol can lower your chance of becoming pregnant or carrying a baby to full term.
  • Illicit drug use: Some drugs can damage reproductive organs or change a woman’s cycle.
  • Previous pelvic surgery: People who have adhesions in the pelvis or abdomen may become infertile.
  • Smoking: Some studies show that nicotine can change the cervical lining, making it more difficult to get pregnant.
  • Some sexually transmitted diseases: Some STDs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, leading to infertility.

What causes a man’s infertility?

Most male infertility is related to sperm. Sometimes a man’s body doesn’t make enough sperm, or any sperm at all. At other times, the movement (motility) or shape of the sperm doesn’t enable them to reach and fertilize an egg.

What increases a man’s risk of infertility?

  • Age: For men over 45, it can take up to five times as long to start a pregnancy with a woman partner.
  • Certain supplements: Testosterone supplements or anabolic steroid use can harm fertility.
  • Exposure to certain substances: Potential exposures can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and environmental toxins (pesticides, heavy metals or industrial chemicals).
  • Heavy alcohol use: Drinking too much alcohol can affect sperm count and motility.
  • Illicit drug use: Some drugs can damage reproductive organs or cause low sperm count or poor motility.
  • Medical conditions: Some health issues can cause infertility, including high blood pressure, diabetes and cystic fibrosis.
  • Problems with the testicles: Infections, trauma, certain medications or varicocele (large or varicose veins) can cause infertility.
  • Smoking: Smoking can damage the sperm, which makes them less likely to fertilize an egg.

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