Infertility is defined as the failure to conceive after 12 months of unprotected sex between two people of childbearing age.
Women over the age of 35 are advised to seek treatment after 6 months of trying as fertility decreases rapidly after this age due to the aging of the ovaries. Inability to carry a foetus to term may also require fertility treatment.
Infertility is fairly common, occurring in 10% to 15% of couples. Statistically the cause lies with the man in 40% of cases, the women in 40% of cases and with both partners in 20% of cases. In a few cases the cause is defined as “idiopathic,” meaning unexplained.
Many cases of apparent infertility can be easily treated resulting in a healthy pregnancy, while others may require more extensive treatment such as in vitro fertilisation or surgery. In about 20% of cases no pregnancy can be achieved, although success rates often depend on age (older women have a lower success rate).
People often believe that stress causes infertility and that if they “relax and forget about it” they will fall pregnant. While stress certainly doesn’t help, infertility is not your fault and is usually a medical problem requiring appropriate treatment.
The starting point is a comprehensive fertility investigation to determine whether the cause is:
A semen problem
An ovulation problem
A fertilisation problem (egg and sperm failing to unite)