Alternative Names

Inability to conceive; Unable to get pregnant

Definition of Infertility

Primary infertility describes couples who have never been able to become pregnant after at least 1 year of unprotected sex (intercourse).

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Causes of infertility include a wide range of both physical and emotional factors. A couple’s infertility may be due to female factors, male factors, or both:


The physical symptom of infertility is the inability to become pregnant.

Signs and tests

A complete medical history and physical examination of both partners is essential.


Increase your chance of becoming pregnant each month by having sexual intercourse at least every 3 days in the weeks leading up to and through the expected time of ovulation. Ovulation occurs about 2 weeks before the next period starts. So, if you get your period every 28 days, you should have sexual intercourse at least every 3 days between the 10th and 18th day after you get your period, and concentrating on the 72 hours before ovulation occurs.

Expectations (prognosis)

Up to 60% of couples who were considered infertile become pregnant after receiving appropriate therapies (not including advanced techniques such as in vitro fertilization).


Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 3/21/2010

Pelvic laparoscopy
Female reproductive anatomy
Male reproductive anatomy
Primary infertility

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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