In medical terms, infertility is a condition in which a woman is unable to get pregnant after a year or more of unprotected sex. If you are a woman who is not having regular menstrual periods or is older than 35 and unsuccessfully conceived after 6 months of trying, you should schedule an appointment with your women’s health care provider.
Infertility, or an inability to get pregnant, is caused by some interference in the typical conception process happening in either the woman or the man. In typical conception, a woman’s body ovulates, releasing an egg from her ovaries. Fertilization happens when a man’s sperm reaches the egg and joins with it. This fertilized egg travels through a fallopian tube toward the uterus where it must attach to the inside of the uterus in a process called implantation.
A problem in any of the above steps may lead to infertility. In women, an issue with ovarian (no or irregular ovulation), fallopian tube (blocked, open or swollen tubes), or uterine functioning (presence of fibroids or abnormalities) may interfere with conception.
Certain factors may also increase a woman’s risk of infertility, such as aging (waiting until age 30 or 40), smoking, excess alcohol use, extreme weight gain or loss, and excessive physical or emotional stress that leads to amenorrhea (absent periods).
When a woman or a couple comes in for concerns about infertility, your health care provider will obtain a comprehensive medical and family history as well as conducting physical examinations. Blood and imaging tests are done to evaluate the problem.
Treatment for infertility depends on the determined cause. Your doctor may recommend education and counseling, medications to treat certain medical conditions, medications that help the ovaries with egg production, and fertility treatments such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) with a specialist.
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