Approximately 15% of couples in the United States are infertile. For healthy, young couples, the odds are approximately 20% that a woman will become pregnant during one menstrual cycle. This figure declines with age, especially after the age of 35.
When a woman ovulates, she releases an egg, which can be fertilized any time during a 12 to 24 hour period. For a woman with a 28-day menstrual cycle, ovulation occurs approximately 14 days after the first day of her period. Sperm, the active ingredient of male ejaculate, travel up through the cervix to fertilize the egg in the fallopian tube. The fertilized egg then migrates to the uterus, where it attaches and begins to grow. If a problem occurs in this chain of events, pregnancy is not achieved.
Physicians generally recommend infertility testing for couples that do not become pregnant after 12 months of intercourse without birth control. Basic infertility testing may help determine the cause. It consists of:
- A physical examination
- A medical history
- Semen analysis
- Ovulation tests
- Test to check for a normal uterus and open fallopian tubes
- A discussion about how often and when to have intercourse
If a problem exists, steps can be taken to correct it. Depending on the cause, your medical provider may recommend lifestyle changes, medications, surgery, and/or a referral to a specialist.