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Infertility affects 1 in 10 couples who want children. Fertility declines in both sexes after the ages of 25–30, and because more and more couples are delaying starting a family until their 30s, infertility is becoming more common in the developed world. If conception has not occurred after a year of unprotected, regular sex, one or both partners may have a fertility problem.

For every 10 couples who try to have a child, 8 conceive within a year and 9 conceive within 2 years. The remainder may have fertility problems. Some problems may be temporary or can be treated medically, but certain problems can prevent a couple from ever having children. Infertility can also affect people who have children already.

It is important that both partners visit the doctor together if they are worried about an inability to conceive. In about half of all couples who have difficulty conceiving, the problem lies with the female partner, and in about a third of couples it lies with the male partner. However, in some couples, no cause can be found.

In this section, the first article covers the advice that a doctor might give to a couple who are having difficulties in conceiving. The following two articles describe specific infertility problems in women and in men. Each article describes the tests that a doctor may carry out to identify fertility disorders and discusses how specific problems may be treated. Other conditions that can lead to infertility are covered elsewhere in the guide. Such conditions include polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis in women, and varicocele and hypogonadism in men.

In many couples, the cause of infertility can be identified and treated. If a specific cause cannot be found or is untreatable, assisted conception may be advised. This section discusses the techniques in current use, including recent sophisticated developments.

Problems Conceiving

Female Infertility

Male Infertility

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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