Understanding Infertility : Fertility Overview

A Closer Look at Infertility

Female Overview

For a woman to be fertile, her body must produce healthy egg cells that can be transported to a meeting place with sperm cells, and from there to a well-prepared uterus.

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Fertility Overview

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Problems with any of the following can diminish a woman's fertility:

Fallopian tube damage or blockage
Ovulation disorders
Elevated prolactin
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Early menopause
Benign uterine fibroids
Pelvic adhesions

Advanced Maternal Age

More women are choosing to delay childbearing until their late 30s and early 40s. Studies have demonstrated that almost half of women older than 40 will experience infertility. Naturally-occurring fertility levels decrease with advancing age, so prompt evaluation and aggressive treatment are important considerations for these women.


Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age, causing infertility and other serious health repercussions. In fact, physicians believe PCOS to be the most common reason for menstrual irregularities.


Endometriosis is a common condition that occurs when the tissue lining the inside of the uterus spreads to the outside, often attaching to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the uterus' outer surface, the pelvic cavity's lining, or other parts of the lower abdomen. Endometriosis occurs only in menstruating women, and its cause is unclear.

Male Infertility Issues

Contributing Factors to Male Infertility

For a man to be fertile, his sperm cells must be healthy and be transported to their destination – the egg. Most cases of male infertility are due to sperm abnormalities, yet any of the following can play a role:

Low sperm count
Abnormally shaped sperm cells
Sperm that are immobile or have impaired movement
Impaired delivery of sperm

Sperm basics

Fertilization depends on sperm that are properly shaped (morphology) and able to move (motility) rapidly and accurately toward the egg. Impaired motility and morphology can result in sperm not reaching the egg.

Sperm count or concentration refers to the number of sperm cells per milliliter of semen. Men with 10 million or fewer sperm per milliliter are considered subfertile. Approximately 20 million or higher is considered average; 40 million sperm or higher per milliliter indicates increased fertility.

Advanced Paternal Age

It has become common knowledge that women's fertility declines with age. It's also been assumed that men have no similar "biological clock." Scientists are learning more about how that assumption is incorrect.

In fact, it appears as though men, too, may need to start thinking about biological parenthood well before they turn 40.

The impact of age for men is about more than just fertility. Evidence shows that older men have greater chances of fathering offspring who are at higher risk for birth defects and developmental disorders.

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