Infertility definition & sterility definition

Learn the difference between infertility and sterility.

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It's come to our attention that many people are getting the terms infertility and sterility mixed up, or don't fully understand what they mean. Therefore we've put together an infertility definition and sterility definition with some explanations to help sort out any confusion between the two!

What is infertility?

Medical experts describe infertility as the failure to conceive after one year of unprotected sexual intercourse - this term applies for both men and women. Once a female reaches the age of 35, this time period decreases to six months.

A full evaluation by a physician is required to determine the cause of infertility.

Our infertility definition includes these sub categories -

Primary infertility - this is when a couple have never achieved a successful pregnancy.

Secondary infertility - a couple who've previously had at least one child, but have been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for a year.

Sub-fertility - described as having a diminished (less than normal) reproductive capacity. Such examples may be a woman who's been diagnosed with fibroids, or a man with a low sperm count result. This term is often used interchangeably with the word infertility.

Repeated miscarriages - when a woman experiences two or more consecutive miscarriages this may also be termed as infertility.

Unexplained infertility - common diagnosis from doctors, which means that no identifiable medical explanation has been found.

Statistics reveal that males and females are equally affected by infertility.

Infertility may be temporary or persistent

We recommended to anyone who's thinking about trying to conceive to make an appointment with your person physician as part of a preconception care plan. A general health check up with routine diagnostic tests (e.g. bloods) is a good idea to either rule out or address any obvious health issues which may affect fertility.

Hormonal imbalances are a frequent cause of infertility so this is one aspect that may need evaluating.

Various diseases and/or medications can contribute towards delayed conception. Monitoring of existing medical conditions, or adjustments to any current prescription medications may be required.

If a reproductive problem is diagnosed then treatments may be possible to help restore fertility, or assisted reproductive technologies may be able to help. Your doctor will refer you onto a specialist if necessary.

Age is often a complication. Most of us already know that a woman's eggs decline with age, but recent research has determined that male fertility also declines with age (although more gradual).     

A recent bout of sickness, infection, or fever can interfere with fertility. Sometimes it can take three - four months before fertility levels start returning to normal. Taking extra care during this time is essential to build up immunity and regain overall health.

Infertility can be brought about by numerous other factors that take their toll on the body. Here are several examples -    

  • Poor diet and nutritional deficiencies
  • Lifestyle - lack of sleep, increased stress levels, not enough exercise  
  • Bad habits - excess alcohol, cigarettes, recreational drugs
  • Chemicals, heavy metals - pesticides on food, household cleansers and detergents, personal care products, toxins from the workplace and environment
  • Or even just wrong timing - know your ovulation cycle and your fertile window!

A change to a healthier way of living (for both partners) may influence your chances of becoming parents!

*Please note - Whatever the reason is for infertility, it's essential to work with your doctor to determine an appropriate treatment plan.

What is sterility?

Sterility is the permanent inability to produce offspring.

A person may have been born with a genetic disorder, structural defect, or a missing sexual organ. Complications from disease, injury, or surgery may also lead to sterility through irreversible damage or severe scar tissue. In certain circumstances (such as cancer) surgical removal of part of the reproductive tract may have been necessary.

Options for couples in these situations may include sperm or egg donors, surrogacy, and also adoption.  

These claims have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Related articles -

Fertility definition

Signs of infertility

Infertility support

Preconception care

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