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Infertility Overview

Most men and women do not expect that they will have any trouble getting pregnant. Unfortunately, one in every ten couples will have difficulty becoming pregnant. For many, the cause of their fertility problem is easy to identify, and relatively inexpensive treatment methods result in a successful pregnancy.

The goal for everyone faced with infertility is to build a family using the least costly and invasive, yet most effective methods. It can be daunting for couples to know where to start and what to expect.

This series of articles offers guidance to those faced with infertility. We begin with a brief overview of the causes of infertility. This is followed by a description of the most commonly used diagnostic tests. We finish with an introduction to the treatments most frequently used to achieve pregnancy.

Getting Started

Visit prior to Attempting Pregnancy

There are several basic tests that can be performed prior to conception to optimize the chances of a healthy baby. For this reason, it is recommended that, prior to attempting pregnancy, women should obtain a pre-conception health evaluation by their obstetrician-gynecologist, or care provider. Their care provider will confirm that they have had the appropriate immunizations and give them prenatal vitamins containing extra folic acid, which decreases the risk of birth defects called neural tube defects. This “pre-conception” physician visit is particularly important for women with any serious health issues that could worsen during pregnancy or using medications that may affect the developing fetus.

Things to Keep in Mind

Having children and raising a family is an expectation of many people. Here are some things to keep in mind as you move forward:

  • Those who have difficulty are often able to achieve pregnancy with the aid of modern treatment options, which have evolved over the last three decades to be more successful and somewhat less expensive.
  • The approach must be individualized to achieve pregnancy with the least cost and with the lowest chance of complicatons or multiple gestations.
  • The stress of infertility treatment on each person,¬†and on a couple’s¬†relationship should be actively managed.
  • Understanding the options and alternatives at every step of the way is important for dealing with the stress associated with this process.


  • American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Infertility: an overview, United States. 2003. Birmingham, Ala: American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2006 Assisted Reproductive Technology Success Rates, National Summary and Fertility Clinic Report. Atlanta: 2008.
  • Falcone T, Hurd WW, eds. Clinical Reproductive Medicine and Surgery, New York: Elsevier, 2007.

Prepared in partnership with Melina Dendrinos, MD, Class of 2008

To Learn More

For more information:

Go to the Infertility health topic.