According to the current clinical definition, if, after having unprotected sex, a woman is unable to conceive or carry a baby to term, and the condition remains unchanged for at least a year, she may be infertile. In the United States, about 12 percent of women between ages 15 and 44 fit this label.
After a year of trying to conceive, couples should consider infertility as a possible reason and seek professional help. Women actively trying to get pregnant may wish to consult a doctor earlier if they are over the age of 40, have irregular or painful periods, have a history of miscarriages, have been diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis, or have been treated for cancer.
Women are not always the source of a couple's infertility—in approximately one-third of cases, men may have difficulty with conception. In another third of cases, men are a contributing factor, along with female infertility and other problems. Men should be evaluated by a physician if there is a family history of infertility, if they have undergone cancer treatment, if they have small testicles, a swollen scrotum, or a low sperm count, or if they have any other testicular, prostate, or sexual problems.
If a physician believes infertility is a concern, a number of tests will be administered. For women, these may include ovulation testing, ovarian reserve testing, hormone testing, and hysterosalpingography (X-rays of the fallopian tubes) or other imaging tests. Assessing male infertility involves semen analysis, which examines the number of sperm, as well as their motility and morphology (shape). Other tests for men may include hormonal and genetic testing, testicular biopsy, and additional imaging.