Infertility is officially defined as the inability to conceive a viable pregnancy after one year of unprotected intercourse. This "official" definition, however, does not begin to define what infertility really means.
Infertility can mean learning a whole new language of medical terms. It can also mean that making love becomes associated with failure or feelings of isolation from the fertile world. It can get quite difficult when pregnancy announcements from others don't necessarily bring joy, but may instead bring feelings of jealousy and resentment. But the more you know about infertility, the more you can determine what course to take to improve your condition.
When to Seek a Doctor's Prognosis
Women under the age of 35, with no remarkable medical condition, should attempt conception for a year before consulting a physician. For women over the age of 35 or women with a relevant medical condition, after six months of trying, she should seek out help.
There are three levels of physicians who treat infertility. The first is an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) who has some knowledge of infertility diagnosis and treatment. The second is an OB/GYN who has more experience with infertility and may even offer some of the high-tech treatments. Thirdly, there is a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) who has received several years of specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of infertility. Be aware that physicians can state that they are "infertility specialists," even if they have not received any formal training post-residency. One way to find a physician who specializes in infertility is to look for listings under AmericanSocietyofReproductiveMedicine.org, but please note that non-RE's are listed as well.
Infertility treatment can be as simple as taking medication by mouth to more complex treatments, such as medical injections to produce several eggs at once. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most common. This involves taking medications to produce many eggs, then surgically removing the eggs and fertilizing them in a petri dish.
There are a number of variations of IVF, the most common of which is intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a treatment for infertile males. If there are inadequate numbers of normal sperm or if the motility or morphology are low after the eggs are retrieved, one normal-looking sperm is injected into each egg. Thousands of babies have been born as a result of this fairly new technology.