A couple is considered infertile when they have not conceived after a full year of regular, sexual intercourse without contraception. About one-third of all cases of infertility are related to male factors, and an equal number are due to factors in women. The remaining cases are either related to problems in both partners or occur for unknown reasons.
Men are considered infertile if they produce no sperm cells (azoospermia), if they produce too few sperm cells (oligospermia), or if their sperm cells are abnormal or die before they can reach the egg. Chronic problems with ejaculation (sperm released at orgasm) also contribute to male infertility. In rare cases, infertility in men is caused by an inherited condition, such as
or chromosomal abnormalities.
Infertility affects over 6 million people in the United States, which represents about 10% of the reproductive-age population. Most infertility cases (85% to 90%) are treated with conventional medical therapies such as medication or surgery. Assisted reproductive technologies, for example, in vitro fertilization and similar treatments, account for less than 5% of infertility services. Infertility, which is often a reversible or treatable condition, should be distinguished from sterility, which implies an irreversible inability to conceive.
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American Society for Reproductive Medicine website. Available at:
http://www.asrm.org/topics/detail.aspx?id=1331. Accessed September 14, 2012.
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http://www.protectyourfertility.org/malerisks.html. Accessed September 14, 2012.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/repro/. Accessed September 14, 2012.
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Last reviewed September 2012 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
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