How Do I Know If I Am Infertile?

If you were infertile, how would you know? And if you knew if you are infertile, what would it mean? In this article, we define exactly what it means to be infertile, look at some possible warning signs and causes of infertility, and share the only way to know for certain if you are infertile.

What does it mean to be ‘infertile’?

If you want to know if you are infertile, it is important to first understand what the term means.

In general, the term “infertility” is used when a couple has had unprotected intercourse for 12 months or more without falling pregnant where the woman is younger than 35.

It is also used when a couple has had unprotected intercourse for 6 months or more without falling pregnant where the female partner is over the age of 35.

It is crucial to realise that the term ‘infertility’ is used when ‘the ability to become pregnant is diminished or absent’. It does not mean that you are unable to have children, but rather that you and your partner may require treatment or assistance to achieve a pregnancy. It is a challenge shared by one in six couples around the world.

There are a few other important things you should also know about being infertile.

Conception is not guaranteed, not even for fertile couples where the female partner is younger than 35. In fact, the chances of conception are just 25% each month for couples without infertility problems and where the female partner is under 35 years of age.

It is also important to realise that infertility affects men and women equally – about one-third of infertility cases are due to female fertility problems; one-third are due to male fertility problems; and the remaining one-third are due to a combination of male and female factor issues. To complicate matters further, in 25% of couples, there is more than one factor contributing to infertility.

In addition, few people know is that there are also two types of infertility: primary infertility – when a couple has never achieved having a baby before; and secondary infertility – when a couple is unable to conceive after they have already had a child.

There are few obvious physical signs of infertility, other than the fact that the couple has not fallen pregnant. However, some of the possible signs of infertility for both women and men are detailed below.

How can a woman know if she is infertile?

A first sign of infertility for many women is that they have not fallen pregnant although they have been trying for 6 months to a year.

Irregular cycles, pain during menstruation and/or intercourse, and a BMI of more than 30, are also possible indicators of infertility.

Endometriosis or Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), as well as a history of pelvic infection disease (PID) or sexually transmitted diseases, could also be warning signs of infertility, as are tubal disease and anovulation.

Endometriosis is a known cause of infertility and roughly 30% of women with infertility problems have this painful condition of the reproductive system which can affect up to 10% of women.

PCOS is an ovulation disorder with symptoms such as disordered or lack of ovulation, elevated male hormones (androgens), and/or polycystic-appearing ovaries on ultrasound. It affects up to one in ten of women of reproductive age.

PID is an infection of the female reproductive organs, and often occurs without signs or symptoms. It usually occurs when sexually transmitted bacteria spread from your vagina to your uterus, and is the main cause of tubal infertility.

Tubal disease – a blockage of or damage to one or both of the fallopian tubes – can cause also infertility as these tubes are the ‘roadway’ for the sperm to find and fertilise the egg.
In approximately 30% of fertility patients, anovulation is a cause of infertility. Women with anovulation will have irregular periods or they may not get their cycles at all. That is because anovulation is the failure of the ovary to release an egg for 3 months or more. If your cycles are shorter than 21 days, or longer than 36 days, it could be a sign of ovulatory dysfunction.

Women who have had or are planning to have cancer treatment are also at risk of infertility.

How can a man know if he is infertile?

For men, there are usually no obvious signs or symptoms of infertility problem other than the fact that the couple is not pregnant. In fact, erections, intercourse and ejaculation will usually happen normally and the quantity and appearance of ejaculated semen will appear normal.

Yet, a male infertility problem can be identified in nearly half of all couples who have difficulty achieving conception. Almost all causes of male infertility are usually related to sperm disorders – either too few in number or of inadequate quality.

Possible signs of infertility include chronic pain in the genital area or erectile dysfunction. Other indicators include previous sexually transmitted diseases, testicular surgery or trauma, and a history of mumps during teenage years, as well as lifestyle choices such as the use of anabolic steroids or gym supplements, a BMI of more than 30, and excessive smoking, alcohol use and illicit drug abuse. Men who have had or are planning to have cancer treatment are also at risk of infertility.

The only way to know for sure if you are infertile

As is clear from the possible signs and indications above, there are many, many potential causes of infertility.

In addition to age, certain lifestyle choices and even stress feature strongly among these possible causes. There is also a long list of medical conditions that can cause infertility.

The only way to know for sure if you are infertile, is a consultation with a fertility specialist that has substantial expertise and extensive experience, and access to advanced techniques and state-of-the-art equipment at custom-designed facilities. At Medfem, this is exactly what you will get: a fertility consultation that will allow you to know for certain if you are infertile.

But remember, infertility doesn’t mean you can’t have children, only that you may require treatment or assistance to achieve a pregnancy.

Fortunately, while the list of possible causes of infertility long, the range of options – including specialised medications and treatments – to assist couples in getting pregnant is just as long.

It’s just a matter of finding out what treatment or assistance you require to fall pregnant – and that is what you will find out at your first consultation at Medfem.

When should you be concerned whether you are infertile?

At Medfem Fertlity Clinic, we believe that if you are concerned about your fertility, you should take immediate steps to have your situation assessed.

Especially in cases of known problems such as anovulation, tubal disease and severe male factor infertility, immediate evaluation and treatment of infertility is warranted.

We also highly recommend proactive evaluation and treatment for women who are 40 years of age and older, because this age group has increased potential for significant loss of ovarian reserve.

If you have been trying to conceive for at least one year (or at least six months if you are older than 35), it’s also time to seek help from an expert.

During your first consultation at Medfem, you will meet one of our fertility specialists, who will discuss with you your medical history, conduct a comprehensive infertility work up, advise you of your options, and start to plan your treatments.

Simply click here or contact us on +27 (11) 463 2244 to book your initial consultation and take your next step to parenthood.



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