Ovarian reserve testing. To determine the quantity and quality of your eggs, your doctor might test the concentration of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estradiol (estrogen) and anti-mullerian hormone in your blood during the first few days of your menstrual cycle. Test results, often used together with an ultrasound of your ovaries, can help predict how your ovaries will respond to fertility medication.
Every woman is born with a set number of eggs, which declines as she ages. To get pregnant, an egg released from a woman’s ovaries must be fertilized by sperm, travel down the fallopian tube, and attach to the side of her uterus. At any stage along the way, a problem may occur, resulting in a case of infertility. For women, the most common causes of infertility are primary ovarian insufficiency (early menopause), ovulation disorders affecting egg release, uterine or cervical abnormalities, endometriosis (where tissue grows outside of the uterus), fallopian tube blockage or damage, polycystic ovary syndrome, and various hormonal imbalances. Certain cancers and their treatments can also negatively impact a woman’s fertility.
A review in 2013 came to the result that infants resulting from IVF (with or without ICSI) have a relative risk of birth defects of 1.32 (95% confidence interval 1.24–1.42) compared to naturally conceived infants.[48] In 2008, an analysis of the data of the National Birth Defects Study in the US found that certain birth defects were significantly more common in infants conceived through IVF, notably septal heart defects, cleft lip with or without cleft palate, esophageal atresia, and anorectal atresia; the mechanism of causality is unclear.[49] However, in a population-wide cohort study of 308,974 births (with 6,163 using assisted reproductive technology and following children from birth to age five) researchers found: "The increased risk of birth defects associated with IVF was no longer significant after adjustment for parental factors." [50] Parental factors included known independent risks for birth defects such as maternal age, smoking status, etc. Multivariate correction did not remove the significance of the association of birth defects and ICSI (corrected odds ratio 1.57), although the authors speculate that underlying male infertility factors (which would be associated with the use of ICSI) may contribute to this observation and were not able to correct for these confounders. The authors also found that a history of infertility elevated risk itself in the absence of any treatment (odds ratio 1.29), consistent with a Danish national registry study [51] and "implicates patient factors in this increased risk." The authors of the Danish national registry study speculate: "our results suggest that the reported increased prevalence of congenital malformations seen in singletons born after assisted reproductive technology is partly due to the underlying infertility or its determinants."
Few American courts have addressed the issue of the "property" status of a frozen embryo. This issue might arise in the context of a divorce case, in which a court would need to determine which spouse would be able to decide the disposition of the embryos. It could also arise in the context of a dispute between a sperm donor and egg donor, even if they were unmarried. In 2015, an Illinois court held that such disputes could be decided by reference to any contract between the parents-to-be. In the absence of a contract, the court would weigh the relative interests of the parties.[190]
A surge in LH triggers your ovaries to release an egg. The surge usually happens 36 hours before the egg is released. Ovulation kits check LH levels in your urine to help you pinpoint the day of ovulation. These kits, which you can buy at the drugstore, are convenient and highly accurate. You may want to test 1-2 days before you expect the surge so you can note the rise in LH.

Many women spend much of their early adult lives trying not to get pregnant. But when you finally do want to start a family and it doesn’t happen right away, it can leave you feeling frustrated. Not to mention, trying to get pregnant month after month unsuccessfully can be emotionally taxing. You should know that you are not alone, and that unexplained infertility is exactly that– unexplained– so no finger pointing as to who is at fault!


This website uses cookies to improve your experience while you navigate through the website. Out of these cookies, the cookies that are categorized as necessary are stored on your browser as they are essential for the working of basic functionalities of the website. We also use third-party cookies that help us analyze and understand how you use this website. These cookies will be stored in your browser only with your consent. You also have the option to opt-out of these cookies. But opting out of some of these cookies may have an effect on your browsing experience.
Wondering if it’s time to seek fertility help from a specialist? Your age can help clue you in to the answer. If you’re younger than 35, it’s perfectly normal for it to take six months to a year to conceive. If, after a year, you haven’t accomplished your conception goal, you’ll want to talk with your practitioner and/or get a referral to a fertility specialist. If you’re older than 35, experts recommend that you seek help from a fertility specialist after six months of regularly trying to conceive without birth control — and you may even want to go after three months. If you’re over 40, you’ll probably want to start off your quest for a second pregnancy with a fertility evaluation from your doctor. Ditto if your partner is over 40, since 35 to 40 percent of fertility problems can be traced back to the man, and a guy’s age affects the quality of his sperm.
The eggs are then fertilized with sperm that has been optimized in the laboratory so that sperm with poor morphology or motility are discarded and the healthiest remain. Fertilization usually takes place through Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). In this high-precision technique, the best single sperm are selected and individually microinjected into each egg.
^ Tersigni C, Castellani R, de Waure C, Fattorossi A, De Spirito M, Gasbarrini A, Scambia G, Di Simone N (2014). "Celiac disease and reproductive disorders: meta-analysis of epidemiologic associations and potential pathogenic mechanisms". Hum. Reprod. Update. 20 (4): 582–93. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmu007. PMID 24619876. Physicians should investigate women with unexplained infertility, recurrent miscarriage or IUGR for undiagnosed CD. (...) CD can present with several non-gastrointestinal symptoms and it may escape timely recognition. Thus, given the heterogeneity of clinical presentation, many atypical cases of CD go undiagnosed, leading to a risk of long-term complications. Among atypical symptoms of CD, disorders of fertility, such as delayed menarche, early menopause, amenorrhea or infertility, and pregnancy complications, such as recurrent abortions, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), small for gestational age (SGA) babies, low birthweight (LBW) babies or preterm deliveries, must be factored. (...) However, the risk is significantly reduced by a gluten-free diet. These patients should therefore be made aware of the potential negative effects of active CD also in terms of reproductive performances, and of the importance of a strict diet to ameliorate their health condition and reproductive health.

Addressing lifestyle issues is not meant to be a quick fix, and typically does not lead to instant success. However, with unexplained infertility every little bit counts, so don’t fret or give up. Do not assume just because the cause of infertility is unexplained, it is untreatable or there is no pathway to parenthood. When a specific cause is not determined for women, and male infertility has also been ruled out, our fertility specialist may begin a course of treatment to improve the chances of conception and pregnancy. The speed with which interventions are offered depends on each individual’s own needs and desires as determined by age and other factors.
The stress of secondary infertility on an individual's life and relationships can be significant. It can be hard to find support from family and friends, especially when a woman or couple already has/have children. Sentiments such as, "you should be grateful for what you have," or, "just keep trying," almost never serve as useful advice or support. Couples and single parents can even experience resentment from other couples with infertility who are unable to even have their first child.
Nowadays, there are several treatments (still in experimentation) related to stem cell therapy. It is a new opportunity, not only for partners with lack of gametes, but also for homosexuals and single people who want to have offspring. Theoretically, with this therapy, we can get artificial gametes in vitro. There are different studies for both women and men.[65]
Ovarian hyperstimulation also includes suppression of spontaneous ovulation, for which two main methods are available: Using a (usually longer) GnRH agonist protocol or a (usually shorter) GnRH antagonist protocol.[60] In a standard long GnRH agonist protocol the day when hyperstimulation treatment is started and the expected day of later oocyte retrieval can be chosen to conform to personal choice, while in a GnRH antagonist protocol it must be adapted to the spontaneous onset of the previous menstruation. On the other hand, the GnRH antagonist protocol has a lower risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which is a life-threatening complication.[60]
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) have been the therapeutic mainstays for those with unexplained infertility. The former involves inserting sperm directly into the uterus, while the latter works by uniting the sperm and the egg cells in a laboratory dish. IVF is expensive, but has a higher success rate. However, some patients continue to struggle and suffer the associated financial burden of repeated cycles.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): This procedure involves direct injection of a single sperm of the male partner into the eggs of the female for fertilization. Just like IVF procedure, in ICSI, the sperm and egg are collected from both the partners. The only difference is the fertilization process as in IVF the sperms and egg are mixed naturally, and in ICSI the sperms are injected into the egg using a needle.
The likelihood of a diagnosis of unexplained infertility is increased substantially in women 35 and over - and greatly increased in women over 38. The reason for this is that there are more likely to be egg quantity and quality problems as women age. Since we do not have a "standard category" called egg factor infertility, these couples sometimes get lumped in to the "unexplained" infertility category.
Wondering if it’s time to seek fertility help from a specialist? Your age can help clue you in to the answer. If you’re younger than 35, it’s perfectly normal for it to take six months to a year to conceive. If, after a year, you haven’t accomplished your conception goal, you’ll want to talk with your practitioner and/or get a referral to a fertility specialist. If you’re older than 35, experts recommend that you seek help from a fertility specialist after six months of regularly trying to conceive without birth control — and you may even want to go after three months. If you’re over 40, you’ll probably want to start off your quest for a second pregnancy with a fertility evaluation from your doctor. Ditto if your partner is over 40, since 35 to 40 percent of fertility problems can be traced back to the man, and a guy’s age affects the quality of his sperm.

Complexity. IUI refers to one procedure. Prepared sperm is placed directly in the patient’s uterus when she is ovulating in order to aid fertilization. IUI may be performed in sync with a woman’s natural cycle or timed with fertility medications to stimulate ovulation. IVF, on the other hand, is a process which consists of several stages and requires more than one procedure: first the ovaries are stimulated using a series of fertility medications, then the patient undergoes egg retrieval in a day procedure under a mild anesthetic, then after embryos have been created and incubated in the lab, they are placed directly into her uterus in the embryo transfer procedure. Even with the use of fertility drugs, going through IUI is less physically demanding than undergoing IVF.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): This procedure involves direct injection of a single sperm of the male partner into the eggs of the female for fertilization. Just like IVF procedure, in ICSI, the sperm and egg are collected from both the partners. The only difference is the fertilization process as in IVF the sperms and egg are mixed naturally, and in ICSI the sperms are injected into the egg using a needle.
Having no period means ovulation isn’t taking place at all, so a pregnancy can’t happen because no eggs is making itself eligible to be fertilized. Similarly, having irregular periods makes achieving pregnancy difficult, because it’s hard to time intercourse properly -- if sperm and egg aren’t at the same place at the same time, there is no chance of pregnancy.
The eggs are then fertilized with sperm that has been optimized in the laboratory so that sperm with poor morphology or motility are discarded and the healthiest remain. Fertilization usually takes place through Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). In this high-precision technique, the best single sperm are selected and individually microinjected into each egg.

The educational health content on What To Expect is reviewed by our medical review board and team of experts to be up-to-date and in line with the latest evidence-based medical information and accepted health guidelines, including the medically reviewed What to Expect books by Heidi Murkoff. This educational content is not medical or diagnostic advice. Use of this site is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy. © 2020 Everyday Health, Inc


Time. The factor of time cuts both ways when you are weighing up these two options. IUI is a much shorter process than IVF, so if your first cycle is successful, it could be the quickest route to bringing home a baby. However, because of the gap in success rates between the two treatments, some patients in their late 30s to early 40s may get pregnant faster by going directly to IVF rather than waiting until they have had several failed IUI cycles.


Success rates for IVF also vary according to individual circumstances, with the most significant factor again being the age of the woman. At RMA, the likelihood of live birth after transfer of a single, genetically normal blastocyst is 60-65% on average. It is a legal requirement in the US for success rates of fertility clinics to be reported to the CDC. This includes live birth rates and other outcomes. The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology also reports on these statistics. All of our RMA clinics report their results individually and you can check them in the published data. You should remember that results for different clinics are not always comparable with each other because of differences in the patient base.

Mild IVF[64] is a method where a small dose of ovarian stimulating drugs are used for a short duration during a woman's natural cycle aimed at producing 2–7 eggs and creating healthy embryos. This method appears to be an advance in the field to reduce complications and side-effects for women and it is aimed at quality, and not quantity of eggs and embryos. One study comparing a mild treatment (mild ovarian stimulation with GnRH antagonist co-treatment combined with single embryo transfer) to a standard treatment (stimulation with a GnRH agonist long-protocol and transfer of two embryos) came to the result that the proportions of cumulative pregnancies that resulted in term live birth after 1 year were 43.4% with mild treatment and 44.7% with standard treatment.[65] Mild IVF can be cheaper than conventional IVF and with a significantly reduced risk of multiple gestation and OHSS.[66]
Today, with assisted-reproductive technology, the chance of successful treatment is very good. Intrauterine insemination with superovulation is the simplest approach since it increases the chances of the egg and sperm meeting, but some patients may also need GIFT and IVF. IVF can be helpful because it provides information about the sperm's fertilizing ability; GIFT, on the other hand, has a higher pregnancy rate and is applicable in these patients since they have normal fallopian tubes.
A closer look at the data suggest that the benefit of letrozole over clomid depended on the BMI of the participants. For patients with a BMI of less than 30 kg/m2, the cumulative live birth rate was approximately 30% for each group. However, for patients with a BMI over 30 kg/m2, twice as many patients had a live birth in the letrozole group than the clomid group.
During the selection and transfer phases, many embryos may be discarded in favour of others. This selection may be based on criteria such as genetic disorders or the sex.[125] One of the earliest cases of special gene selection through IVF was the case of the Collins family in the 1990s, who selected the sex of their child.[126] The ethic issues remain unresolved as no consensus exists in science, religion, and philosophy on when a human embryo should be recognised as a person. For those who believe that this is at the moment of conception, IVF becomes a moral question when multiple eggs are fertilised, begin development, and only a few are chosen for implantation.[citation needed]
The laboratory – This is when the harvested eggs are fertilized by an embryologist. Once fertilized, they’re grown 3-5 days until they’re able to be transferred into the woman’s uterus. Prior to the transfer, the embryos can be genetically tested. Although testing isn’t right for everyone, it’s useful for some people as it may help prevent miscarriage, passing on known genetic disorders, and can also be used to choose the sex of the child.
The laboratory – This is when the harvested eggs are fertilized by an embryologist. Once fertilized, they’re grown 3-5 days until they’re able to be transferred into the woman’s uterus. Prior to the transfer, the embryos can be genetically tested. Although testing isn’t right for everyone, it’s useful for some people as it may help prevent miscarriage, passing on known genetic disorders, and can also be used to choose the sex of the child.

Secondary infertility is the inability to conceive a child or carry a pregnancy to full term after previously giving birth. To classify as secondary infertility, the previous birth must have occurred without help from fertility medications or treatments, like in vitro fertilization. Secondary infertility typically is diagnosed after trying unsuccessfully to conceive for six months to a year. A related condition is recurrent pregnancy loss where patients and couples are able to conceive but are unable to carry to term.
In a bid to understand my chances of IVF success, I took a quick dive through the vast information available from these sources and came away thinking I had the information I needed. I skipped merrily along thinking things looked pretty promising after reading my chances of IVF working the first time was somewhere around the 40% mark. I naively thought that meant I had an 80% chance if I did two cycles, and that I’d definitely have a baby after three rounds at the most. Unfortunately as later reflection revealed, math and statistic just don’t work like this…

As a result, most patients need to undergo multiple cycles, and as we pointed out in a another lesson, no cycle is as likely to succeed as the first one. Below is data out of the UK published in the Journal of The American Medical Association that illustrates that after a few cycles most younger patients succeed with IVF but that is not necessarily true for older patients.
Problems with the uterus: There are many conditions related to the uterus that can cause secondary infertility. Scarring can occur during a dilation and curettage (D&C) or Cesarean delivery that can create adhesions inside the uterus that interfere with future pregnancies Fibroids or polyps are benign (non-cancer) growths inside the uterus that can impair pregnancy. A retained placenta can cause infection and uterine scarring.
A woman's age is a major factor in the success of IVF for any couple. For instance, a woman who is under age 35 and undergoes IVF has a 39.6% chance of having a baby, while a woman over age 40 has an 11.5% chance. However, the CDC recently found that the success rate is increasing in every age group as the techniques are refined and doctors become more experienced.
×