- The diminished ability or the inability to conceive and have offspring. Infertility is also defined in specific terms as the failure to conceive after a year of regular intercourse without contraception. Infertility can be due to many causes. In most cases of possible female infertility, the problem is found to originate with the male partner’s sperm motility. Some cases are due to physical problems or malformations of the female reproductive system. Others are due to genetic difficulties, such as Rh incompatibility between mother and fetus. Most types of infertility are treatable. In some cases, in vitro fertilization and other lab procedures may be used to ensure fertilization, and special medical care or medication may be required to enable the pregnancy to come to term. Infertility is on the rise in many countries. The proportion of women in the US having their first baby at or after age 30 has quadrupled since the mid-70s. This is important because the probability of having a baby decreases by 3 to 5% a year after age 30 and even faster after age 40. The switch from condoms and diaphragms to nonbarrier methods of contraception has also raised the risk that an STD (sexually transmitted disease) will compromise the ability to conceive and bear a child. To conceive a child, a woman must ovulate — she must release a mature egg from one of her ovaries —and her male partner must ejaculate tens of millions of mature, motile sperm. While sperm form throughout a man's reproductive life, a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have. Over the years, her supply is depleted (of about 7 million eggs present at birth, only 400 make it to ovulation) and the remaining eggs age, diminishing their reproductive capacity. A sperm must be reach and penetrate the egg as it travels from the ovary to the uterus. The fertilized egg must then be able to divide many times, implant in the uterus, and form the placenta that is its lifeline until birth. If the fallopian tubes have been damaged by pelvic infection, or there is endometriosis (misplaced growth of the uterine lining), fertilization or implantation may not be possible. A normal menstrual cycle involves the release of an egg once a month. That egg can survive up to 24 hours. The easiest way to know the fertile time is to chart the menstrual cycle on a calendar. A woman is most likely to be fertile 10 to 14 days after the start of menstruation.
* * *Diminished or absent ability to produce offspring; in either the male or the female, not as irreversible as sterility. [L. in- neg. + fertilis, fruitful]
* * *n.inability in a woman to conceive or in a man to induce conception. Female infertility may be due to failure to ovulate, to obstruction of the Fallopian tube, or to disease of the lining of the uterus (endometrium). Possible treatments (depending on the cause) include administration of drugs (such as clomifene or LHRH analogue), surgery (see salpingography, salpingostomy, salpingolysis) to restore patency of the Fallopian tubes, gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), and in vitro fertilization. Causes of male infertility include decreased numbers or motility of spermatozoa (see oligospermia) and total absence of sperm (see azoospermia). See also andrology, sterility.
* * *in·fer·til·i·ty (in″fər-tilґĭ-te) [in-2 + fertility] diminished or absent capacity to produce offspring; the term does not denote complete inability to produce offspring as does sterility. Called also relative sterility.
Medical dictionary. 2011.