Infertility is defined as being unable to get pregnant after 12 months of regular, unprotected sex. It can happen for many different reasons and can be caused by a problem in both the male or female reproductive systems. These can include:
- Ovary disorders like polycystic ovary syndrome
- Uterus disorders like endometriosis
- Hormone imbalances
- Testicular disorders like varicocele
- Irregular sperm or egg
Infertility can be caused by a combination of things or have unknown causes.
The first treatment for infertility depends on the cause, but it’s often medications to help stimulate ovulation and balance hormones. Stimulating ovulation can make your body release more than one egg, which raises your chances of having multiple babies. These medications often include:
Clomiphene is sometimes also used as an off-label treatment to help men make hormones and sperm. It’s safe and effective for infertility, but more research is needed.
What are some of the treatments for infertility?
If ovulation is normal, your doctor will look for other causes of infertility and treat those. There are lots of different treatments.
Surgery can help both men and women who have structural problems. If blocked fallopian tubes stop the egg from reaching the uterus, the blockages can be surgically removed. Surgery can help other issues like:
- Scarring from past surgeries
- Tissue that builds up in your uterus and tubes from endometriosis
- Varicose veins in the scrotum that stop sperm growth
- Muscle tumors called fibroids that grow in the wall of your uterus
Keeping a healthy weight is important for fertility. Being underweight can cause your body to stop ovulating and obesity can lead to infertility. Obesity can also lower your body’s response to fertility treatment.
Depending on your weight, your doctor might tell you to lose or gain before trying to conceive and before fertility treatment. Medications like metformin can help if your obesity is linked to diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome.
Tobacco, alcohol, and drugs can also lead to infertility. You’ll need to stop these habits as part of infertility treatment and in preparation for pregnancy. These can also cause serious health problems for your baby and shouldn’t be taken during pregnancy.
Other problems like thyroid disease and sexually transmitted infections can cause fertility problems. Your doctor will give you medications to treat these underlying causes.
Also called artificial insemination, this treatment is when your doctor collects healthy sperm and inserts it into or near your uterus during ovulation. This procedure is often combined with ovulation medicine. Your doctor might use this if you have a sperm allergy, lower amounts of sperm, or unexplained infertility.
Assisted reproductive technology (ART)
Assisted reproduction includes lots of different treatments. These usually cost more and are used when you need more involved treatment:
In vitro fertilization. Often called IVF, this is when your doctor collects your egg and sperm and brings them together in a lab. The sperm is injected into the egg and then transferred to your uterus once it’s healthy.
Donor eggs or sperm. If you have problems with your eggs or sperm, your doctor can do IVF with a donated egg or sperm and transfer it to your uterus.
Gestational carrier. If you have a uterus problem or a serious health problem, another woman can become a carrier. The baby is transferred to the carrier’s uterus to continue the pregnancy.
What is the oldest effective treatment for infertility?
Of all of these infertility treatments, intrauterine insemination (IUI) is the oldest and simplest. It’s still commonly used because it doesn’t cost very much, and it's noninvasive. The success rates vary, but it’s usually best for women under 35 years of age.
You might need 3 to 4 cycles of IUI. If you’re not pregnant within that time, your doctor might suggest IVF next.
Are there alternative infertility treatments?
Complementary and alternative health treatments are often suggested for infertility. Some herbs might help period and hormone problems, but it’s not clear that they’re effective for infertility.
Acupuncture is another ancient art often used for infertility treatment. This is a treatment where tiny needles are inserted into different parts of your body called acupuncture points. Studies show that acupuncture can help balance hormones, improve sperm count, and regulate periods. But it might be that it helps mostly lower stress. More research is needed to understand whether these help infertility.
Infertility has lots of causes and treatments. If you’re struggling with getting pregnant, talk to your doctor.
Allina Health: "Can acupuncture help treat infertility?"
American Family Physician: "Evaluation and Treatment of Infertility."
Androgens: Clinical Research and Therapeutics: "Clomiphene Citrate for Male Hypogonadism and Infertility: An Updated Review."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Substance Use During Pregnancy."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Infertility."
Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology of India: "Intrauterine Insemination: Fundamentals Revisited."
Mayo Clinic: "Infertility," "Intrauterine insemination (IUI)."
National Health Service: "Infertility—Treatment."
National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Chasteberry."
World Health Organization: "Infertility."
Wymelenberg, S. Science and Babies: Private Decisions, Public Dilemmas, "Infertility," National Academies Press, 1990.
Top What Is the First Treatment for Infertility Related Articles
Can I Get Pregnant With PCOS Naturally?PCOS is a common hormonal disorder that affects reproductive-aged women. Having PCOS does not mean natural conception is impossible. PCOS is common and treatable for women with fertility issues.
Can Infertility Be Cured?Depending on the cause of infertility, it can be cured through various fertility treatments, including therapies, medications, IUI or IVF procedures, and more.
Can Male Infertility Be Treated?There are treatments for some types of male infertility and lifestyle changes that may improve your chances of conceiving.
Causes of Infertility in a WomanInfertility is a common problem in the United States, with about 10% of women aged 15-44 years facing difficulty in conceiving or bearing a child.
Conception SlideshowLearn about conception and the beginning stages of fetal development. See microscope images of human egg and sperm, as well as cell division and embryos.
false unicorn rootFalse unicorn root is an herbal product used as a traditional medicine by Indigenous Americans, and eventually by Europeans as well, to treat menstrual, gynecological, digestive, urinary, and other disorders. The suggested uses of false unicorn root include the following the absence of menstruation (amenorrhea), painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), ovarian cysts, infertility, repeated miscarriages, morning sickness, menopausal symptoms, and others. Avoid use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Common side effects of false unicorn root include nausea and vomiting.
Infertility QuizWhat is the medical definition of infertility? Take the Infertility Quiz to learn the risks and treatment of infertility. Our answers may surprise you!
Infertility TreatmentLearn about fertility options such as IVF (in vitro fertilization), acupuncture, and natural lifestyle choices. Read about infertility in men and women as well as treatment costs and pregnancy success rates.
What Is the Oldest Age a Woman Can Get Pregnant Naturally?Fertility declines with age. Most women are not able to get pregnant between 5 and 10 years before menopause. Find out more about the many tests you can take to learn about your own fertility. Learn about what they are and how they are tested.
What Are the Top 4 Causes of Male Infertility?Infertility is a condition where a heterosexual couple cannot conceive a baby after having unprotected sexual intercourse for six to twelve months. The top four causes of male infertility are sperm disorders, physical issues, genetic disorders and gender transition.
What Can Cause Infertility in a Woman?Infertility affects approximately 10%-15% of reproductive-aged couples. Cause of infertility could be due to issues in one or both partners. In about one-third of infertile couples, the issue is with the male partner, whereas in a third of the couples, there is an issue with the women.