Health A to Z


Learn the basics of fertility, how to improve it, and steps to take when conceiving becomes a problem.

Fertility is the ability to conceive naturally. Infertility occurs when a couple experiences difficulty in becoming pregnant or carrying a baby to term. One in six couples experiences infertility.

Infertility causes Infertility in couples is frequently due to more than one cause. Women may experience infertility for a range of reasons, including an ovulation disorder, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Other factors may include a woman’s age — after age 35, it can take longer for a woman to become pregnant due to a decline in the number and quality of her eggs. Being overweight or underweight and exercising too much may also lead to menstrual cycle irregularities, such as amenorrhea. Older women are more likely to have a miscarriage: About 50 percent of pregnancies in older women end in miscarriage, compared to 10 percent in younger women. In men, infertility may be due to erectile dysfunction or low sperm quality.

Infertility symptoms Two or more miscarriages, irregular menstruation or no periods and a history of sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia, are indications of infertility.

Infertility diagnosis/tests If you’re having trouble conceiving, see your doctor who will conduct a physical and pelvic examination to try to determine the cause. She may order fertility tests, such as blood tests to see if you are ovulating, a pelvic ultrasound to check for uterine disease and a laparoscopy – where a thin tube is inserted into your abdomen – to see if you have a condition that is making it hard to conceive, such as endometriosis. Other tests include hormone testing to check your thyroid and ovulatory hormones or genetic tests to see if a defect is the cause of the infertility.

Infertility treatment Experts recommend consulting with a fertility doctor if a woman has not conceived after a year of unprotected sex. Doctors may prescribe fertility treatments, such as hormone treatments to induce ovulation, in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination to achieve pregnancy.

Infertility prevention It may be possible to prevent fertility problems and improve your chances of conceiving with healthy lifestyle choices. Exercise regularly but not excessively. Since being too thin or overweight may impact hormone production, maintain a healthy weight. Avoid excessive alcohol which may damage eggs,and smoking and marijuana which may interfere with ovulation.  Talk to your doctor about any medications you take since some over-the-counter and prescription drugs can lower your odds of getting pregnant and staying pregnant.

More info from Chatelaine
Your get-pregnant guide
Surrogacy in India
Great eggs-pectations

Outside resources
McGill Reproductive Centre
Infertility Awareness Association of Canada