Infertility is not being able to conceive after a year of trying. This means having regular, unprotected sex. About one-third of cases are caused by male factors. An equal number are caused by female factors. In the remaining cases, the cause is unknown or is due to problems with both partners.
Successful conception involves many steps:
An egg is released from the woman's ovaries (ovulation).
The egg travels to the fallopian tubes. Here, the man's sperm can fertilize it.
If the egg is fertilized (conception), it moves down the fallopian tubes to the uterus.
It implants itself into the wall of the uterus and begins its 40 weeks of fetal growth.
Most cases of infertility are due to problems with ovulation or problems with fallopian tubes.
ART involves using human sperm and eggs or embryos in a lab to help with conception. The eggs and sperm can be from you and your partner or donated. ART methods include:
Artificial insemination—semen is collected and processed in a lab. It is then inserted directly into the woman's cervix or uterus.
In vitro fertilization (IVF)
—several mature eggs are removed from the woman's body and mixed with sperm in a lab. The egg and sperm mixture or a 2-3 day old embryo is then placed in the uterus.
Gamete or zygote intrafallopian transfer (GIFT or ZIFT)—an egg is removed from the woman's body and mixed with sperm in a lab. The egg and sperm mixture or a 2-3 day old embryo is then placed in the fallopian tube.
Blastocyst intrafallopian transfer—an egg is removed from the woman's body, injected with sperm, and allowed to develop. It is later implanted into the uterus.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection—a single sperm is injected into the egg. The resulting embryo can be implanted into the uterus or frozen for later use.
Most causes cannot be prevented. The following steps may help:
Cronin M, Schellschmidt I, Dinger J. Rate of pregnancy after using drospirenone and other progestin-containing oral contraceptives. Obstet Gynecol. 2009;114:616-622.
Female Infertility Best Practice Policy Committee of the American Urological Association; Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. A practice committee report: optimal evaluation of the infertile female. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. 2000;86:S264-S267.
Infertility. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq137.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130211T1206240241. Published October 2017. Accessed December 11, 2017.
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