Most people plan to have children at some point in their lives, and many assume that when they are ready they will be able to conceive without trouble. Unfortunately, approximately 10 to 15 percent of American couples who want children are infertile.

Infertility is not a sexual disorder. Rather it is a condition of the reproductive system that can be caused by a number of factors in both men and women.

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A couple under age 35 should undergo a fertility evaluation if conception does not occur after a year of attempts. Couples over 35 should pursue a fertility evaluation after attempting for six months. A woman using artificial insemination should ask her doctor about an infertility evaluation after six months.

The actual diagnosis of infertility is an important predictor of pregnancy success and the ultimate guide to treatment. In general, infertility is diagnosed as a female problem in 35 percent of cases, a male problem in 35 percent, a combined problem in 20 percent, and unexplained in 10 percent. It is important that both partners be tested to carefully assess the extent of the fertility problems.

There are many options available to help women and men address infertility. Medications and surgery are the traditional approaches to correcting infertility. Modern technology has created a new group of fertility solutions called assisted reproductive technologies, or ART, in which a portion of the conception process may occur outside the body. The most common ART is in vitro fertilization (IVF) but a variety of others have been developed to address specific fertility problems.

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