Struggling to conceive a child can be a frustrating and emotionally exhausting journey. Although it may seem like a solitary plight for the couples going through it, the problem is relatively common, affecting up to 15% of all couples in the United States. Dr. Zerline Chambers-Kersey provides comprehensive treatment solutions for women struggling to become pregnant. At her patient-centered practice in Dumfries, Virginia, she serves patients from the greater Prince William County area. If you’d like to learn more, call or book your appointment online today.

Infertility Q & A

What is infertility?

Infertility is the inability to become pregnant after a year of regular, unprotected intercourse. For women past the age of 35, infertility may be diagnosed after just six months of trying. Women who are able to become pregnant, but not stay pregnant, may also be diagnosed as infertile.

How common is infertility?

Approximately 10% of women of reproductive age in the United States, or about 6.1 million women, have difficulty becoming pregnant or staying pregnant. Researchers estimate that one-third of infertility problems among couples are caused by women’s problems, one-third are caused by men’s problems, and one-third are the result of a combination of men’s and women’s problems, or by unknown factors.

What causes infertility in women?

For pregnancy to occur, one of your ovaries must first release an egg. As that egg travels through the fallopian tube toward your uterus, it must be joined, or fertilized, by a man’s sperm somewhere along the way. The fertilized egg must then attach itself to the inside of your uterus.

While infertility can occur as a result of a problem with any one of these steps, women’s infertility is most often related to an issue with ovulation. Ovulation difficulties often are the result of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormone imbalance problem and one of the most common causes of infertility in women.

Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is another common cause of infertility. It occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop working normally before the age of 40. Blocked fallopian tubes, uterine fibroids, and physical problems with the uterus are other potential reasons for female infertility.

What else can contribute to infertility?

Infertility isn’t always the product of an underlying health problem; sometimes, it’s the result of factors that can impact a woman’s ability to become pregnant. Age is one such factor: About one-third of all couples in which the woman is older than 35 have fertility problems.

Other factors that can contribute to women’s infertility include:

  • Being overweight or underweight
  • Smoking or drinking too much alcohol
  • Eating a nutritionally poor diet
  • Chronic stress
  • Extreme athletic training
  • Having a sexually transmitted infection (STI)

How is infertility treated?

In most cases, infertility evaluation usually can be completed within a few menstrual cycles. The evaluation process includes a complete physical exam and medical history, menstrual chart review, and ovulation assessment.

It also may include lab and imaging tests to rule out any structural abnormalities, including pelvic ultrasounds and hormone testing.

Although the specific cause of infertility can’t always be pinpointed, specific problems often can be treated. Depending on the cause of your infertility, Dr. Chambers-Kersey may recommend certain lifestyle changes, fertility medication, artificial insemination, assisted reproductive technology, or surgery.