How Common Is Infertility? Your Guide
If you're struggling to conceive, you're not alone. Infertility is a fairly common issue that affects one out of every ten couples of childbearing age (15-44). Here's what we know about infertility in men and women, as well as some signs of infertility. As we'll discuss, the answer to "how common is infertility?" is a multi-faceted and complex one.
How common is infertility in the U.S.?
When discussing fertility, there are a few definitions that are important to keep in mind. Approximately 10% of U.S. couples of childbearing age are infertile, which means that they were unable to conceive after trying for more than 12 months if the woman is under 35 years old, or for six months if the woman is over 35.
Approximately 12-13% of couples will deal with impaired fecundity. This refers to difficulties getting pregnant or carrying a child to term. In the U.S., this translates to issues in about 12 out of 100 couples.
The National Institutes of Health notes that:
- For a third of couples, infertility is due to issues with the man's fertility
- In another third of couples, the woman is infertile
- For the other third of cases, the issue can't be identified to just one partner
In this last case, infertility impacts both the woman and man or is due to a combination of factors. In fact, 25% of infertile couples experience more than one cause of infertility.
While infertility may be more common than many people assume, there are many fertility treatments that are helping modern couples conceive. Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) represent a variety of techniques and tools that fertility specialists use to help couples conceive or carry a child to term. We'll discuss some of these options later in this post.
How common is female infertility?
Female infertility is the cause of infertility in about a third of cases. Approximately 11-13% of women of reproductive age are infertile.
Age does play a larger role in a woman's ability to conceive. With more couples waiting to conceive until they're in their 30s or 40s, it is a growing cause of modern fertility challenges. In fact, up to 20% of women in the U.S. have their first child after the age of 35. According to the Office on Women's Health, one-third of couples in which the woman is over 35 have fertility issues.
Common causes of infertility in women may include:
- Tubal obstructions
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Poor development of uterine lining
- Pelvic adhesions
- Mucus factors
- Uterine fibroids
- Egg quality, time of release, or implantation issues
- Lifestyle choices, like drug or alcohol abuse
Signs of infertility in women may include:
- Irregular, missed, or absent periods
- Abnormally painful periods
- More than one miscarriage
- Not being able to conceive after 12 months of actively trying
How common is male infertility?
Fertility issues occur for about 9% of men of reproductive age in the U.S. While age is a risk factor for women, it's also one for men over the age of 40.
Common causes of infertility in men include:
- Varicoceles, in which heat has affected the count or shape of sperm
- Trauma to the testes
- Hormonal disorders
- A family history of fertility issues
- Exposure to an infection or STI in the past
- Medication use
- Chemical or radiation exposure
- Lifestyle choices, like alcohol or drug abuse
What are some signs of infertility?
Fertility tests are the best way to determine if you or your partner are experiencing fertility issues. You can learn more about the fertility tests you can expect to take in our previous post.
That being said, there are some signs that you may have trouble conceiving. For women, these may include:
- Irregular periods, or no periods at all
- Severe periods that are heavy or painful enough to interrupt your daily life
- Pain during sex
For men, some signs may include:
- Problems maintaining an erection or ejaculating
- Small, firm testicles
- Changes in sexual desire that could point to hormonal changes
If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, it doesn't mean that you'll definitely have fertility challenges. However, they may point to underlying conditions or issues. If you're experiencing any of these, especially loss of menstruation, you should talk to your doctor.
What can I do?
If you've been trying to conceive for 12 months or more (or for six months if you're over the age of 35), talk to a fertility specialist. A specialist will run a series of tests to diagnose the cause of your fertility issues.
Treatment will depend on the cause of your infertility, but may include:
- Lifestyle changes
- Stress management
- Treatment of infections
- Ovulation induction
- Artificial insemination (AI)
- In vitro fertilization (IVF)
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ISCI)
- Therapeutic donor insemination (TDI)
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
- Assisted reproductive technologies (ART)
Heber E. Dunaway, Jr., M.D. explains some of these infertility treatment options in the following video.
Get help with infertility
If you're in Louisiana or our neighboring states, we encourage you to reach out to The Fertility Institute with your questions. Our Louisiana fertility clinic team can help run standard fertility tests to diagnose the cause of your infertility and suggest treatment approaches that could help.
Together, our team has helped thousands of new parents create the family they've always dreamed of for over 30 years. We can't wait to talk to you about how we can help.
Call or message us online to book your appointment!
Originally posted on September 13, 2017.