If getting pregnant has been a challenge for you and your partner, you're not alone. Ten to 15 percent of couples in the United States are infertile. Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant despite having frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year for most people and six months in certain circumstances.

Infertility may be due to a single cause in either you or your partner, or a combination of factors that may prevent a pregnancy from occurring or continuing. Fortunately, there are many safe and effective therapies for overcoming infertility. These treatments significantly improve the chances of becoming pregnant.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Prevention

Most couples achieve pregnancy within the first six months of trying. Overall, after 12 months of frequent unprotected intercourse, about 90 percent of couples will become pregnant. The majority of couples will eventually conceive, with or without treatment.

The main sign of infertility is the inability for a couple to get pregnant. There may be no other obvious symptoms.

In some cases, an infertile woman may have irregular or absent menstrual periods. An infertile man may have signs of hormonal problems, such as changes in hair growth, sexual function, reduced sexual desire, or problems with ejaculation.  He may also have small testicles or a swelling in the scrotum.

When to see a doctor

In general, you may consider seeing a doctor about infertility if you and your partner have been trying regularly to conceive for at least one year. You may consider being seen earlier if you're a woman and:

  • You're age 35 to 40 and have been trying to conceive for six months or longer
  • You're over age 40
  • You menstruate irregularly or not at all
  • You have known fertility problems
  • You've been diagnosed with endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease
  • You've had more than one miscarriage
  • You've had prior cancer treatment

If you're a man, you may wish to be evaluated sooner if you have:

  • A low sperm count or other problems with sperm
  • Swelling in the scrotum (see 'varicocele' below)
  • You have had a previous vasectomy
  • Undergone prior scrotal or inguinal surgery
  • Small testicles or problems with sexual function or desire
  • Had prior cancer cancer treatment
  • Desire to know your fertility status

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