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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 cystic fibrosis 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.

References:

American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Guideline: optimal evaluation of the infertile female. Fertil and Steril. 2004;82:S169-S172.

Infertility. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated August 23, 2012. Accessed September 14, 2012.

Jose-Miller AB, Boyden JW, Frey KA. Infertility. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75:849-856.

Male infertility. American Society for Reproductive Medicine website. Available at: http://www.asrm.org/topics/detail.aspx?id=1331. Accessed September 14, 2012.

Male risks. Protect your fertility website. Available at: http://www.protectyourfertility.org/malerisks.html. Accessed September 14, 2012.

Reproductive health. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/repro/. Accessed September 14, 2012.

Sharlip ID, Jarrow J, Beiiker AM, et al. Report on optimal evaluation of the infertile male. J Urol. 2002;167:2138-2144.

Shefi S, Turek PJP. Definition and current evaluation of subfertile men. Internat Braz J Urol. 2006;32:385-397.

Last reviewed September 2012 by Adrienne Carmack, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


 
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