About 15 percent of American couples attempting to get pregnant are unable to conceive a child. This inability can become emotionally trying and leads many couples to seek out medical solutions to overcome their affliction. To help increase understanding of the issue in the church, here are nine things you should know about infertility in the United States.

1. Infertility is commonly defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year (or longer) of unprotected sex. The two types of infertility are primary and secondary. Primary infertility is defined as difficulty conceiving for a couple who has never before had a child, while secondary infertility describes a couple who is having difficulty conceiving when at least one of the partners has previously had a baby.

2. Pregnancy is the result of a multi-step process: (1) Ovulation: a woman’s body must release an oocyte (egg) from one of her ovaries; (2) Conception: the fertilization of an egg by the male gamete (sperm), which creates the life of new human being; (3) Zygote Transfer: the zygote (the human being who comes into existence after fertilization) must go through a fallopian tube toward the uterus (womb); (4) Implantation: the zygote attaches to the inside of the womb. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), infertility may result from a problem with any or several of these steps.

3. In the United States, about 6 percent of married women aged 15 to 44 years are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying. Additionally, about 12 percent of women aged 15 to 44 years have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, regardless of marital status.

4. A condition related to infertility is impaired fecundity, which refers to women who have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. Studies have found that impaired fecundity is significantly associated with age. For women who have never given birth, impaired fecundity increased with age from 11 percent of those aged 15 to 24 and 25 to 29 to 47 percent of those aged 40 to 44.

5. Studies have found that infertility in women is also significantly associated by age. Among married women who have never given birth, 25 percent of those aged 35 to 39 and 30 percent of those aged 40 to 44 were infertile, compared with 7.3 percent to 9.1 percent of women aged 15 to 34. In contrast, no association was found between men’s reduced fertility and age among childless men. However, overall infertility does appear to be higher for those aged 40 to 44 (14 percent), compared with those aged 25 to 29 with no children (7.2 percent). As a CDC study notes, this is consistent with evidence that men’s physical ability to father a child declines with age, although less appreciably than women’s fecundity prior to age 44.

6. Infertility can result because of issues with either the man or the woman. According to the CDC, in about 35 percent of couples with infertility, a male factor is identified along with a female factor. In about 8 percent of couples with infertility, a male factor is the only identifiable cause. However, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) claims that in one-third of infertile couples, the problem is with the man, in one-third of infertile couples the problem is with the woman, and in one-third of infertile couples, the problem can’t be identified or is with both the man and woman.

7. Infertility in men is usually a result of genetic disorders, hormonal disorders, or disruption of testicular function. Genetic conditions such as a Klinefelter’s syndrome, Y-chromosome microdeletion, or myotonic dystrophy may cause a disruption in sperm production. Hormonal disorders are improper function of the hypothalamus or pituitary glands that may result in low or no sperm production. Disruption of testicular function can be caused by many factors, including trauma to the testes, disease (cancer, diabetes, certain types of autoimmune disorders, and so on), and unhealthy habits (such as heavy alcohol use, smoking, anabolic steroid use, and illicit drug use).

8. Infertility in women is usually a result of fallopian tube obstruction, uterine fibroids, or disruption of ovarian function. A blocked fallopian tube (tubal occlusion) can result from endometriosis, a history of pelvic infection, history of ruptured appendicitis, history of gonorrhea or chlamydia, or a history of abdominal surgery. Uterine fibroids (leiomyomas) are noncancerous growths of the uterus that cause an irregular external uterine contour and hinder implantation. Disruption of ovarian function can be caused d by several conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA), hormonal disorder, and menopause.

9. Medical treatments for infertility include medicine (for example, fertility drugs), corrective surgery, intrauterine insemination, or assisted reproductive technology. Intrauterine insemination (IUI)—often called artificial insemination—is a procedure in which specially prepared sperm are inserted into the woman’s uterus. Sometimes the woman is also treated with medicines that stimulate ovulation before IUI. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) includes all fertility treatments in which both eggs and embryos are handled outside of the body. As the CDC notes, ART procedures generally involve removing mature eggs from a woman’s ovaries using a needle, combining the eggs with sperm in the laboratory, and returning the embryos to the woman’s body or donating them to another woman. The main type of ART is in vitro fertilization (IVF). (For more on the ethical implications of infertility treatments, see the TGC Course on Ethical Issues of Pregnancy and Infertility.)

Other posts in this series:

The STD Crisis • Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) • Russian President Vladimir Putin • Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh • MS-13 • Wicca and Modern Witchcraft • Jerusalem • Christianity in Korea • Creation of Modern Israel • David Koresh and the Branch Davidians • Rajneeshees • Football • The Opioid Epidemic (Part II) • The Unification Church • Billy Graham • Frederick Douglass • Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968 • Winter Olympics • The ‘Mississippi Burning’ Murders •  Events and Discoveries in 2017 • Christmas Traditions • Sexual Misconduct • Lutheranism • Jewish High Holy Days • Nation of Islam • Slave Trade • Solar Eclipses • Alcohol Abuse in America • History of the Homeschooling Movement • Eugenics • North Korea • Ramadan • Black Hebrew Israelites • Neil Gorsuch and Supreme Court Confirmations • International Women’s Day • Health Effects of Marijuana • J. R. R. Tolkien • Aleppo and the Syrian Crisis • Fidel Castro • C.S. Lewis • ESV Bible • Alzheimer’s Disease •  Mother Teresa • The Opioid Epidemic • The Olympic Games • Physician-Assisted Suicide • Nuclear Weapons • China’s Cultural Revolution • Jehovah’s Witnesses • Harriet Tubman • Autism • Seventh-day Adventism • Justice Antonin Scalia (1936–2016) • Female Genital Mutilation • Orphans • Pastors • Global Persecution of Christians (2015 Edition) • Global Hunger • National Hispanic Heritage Month • Pope Francis • Refugees in America • Confederate Flag Controversy • Elisabeth Elliot • Animal Fighting • Mental Health • Prayer in the Bible • Same-sex Marriage • Genocide • Church Architecture • Auschwitz and Nazi Extermination Camps • Boko Haram • Adoption • Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • Halloween and Reformation Day • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues • Islamic State