Hesperian Health Guides

What Is Infertility?

Habits such as drinking alcohol, smoking or chewing tobacco, and using drugs can all affect a man’s or a woman’s fertility.

We say a couple is infertile if they cannot get pregnant after having sex together a few times a month for a year, without using a family planning method. A couple may also have a fertility problem if they have had 3 or more miscarriages (lost pregnancies) in a row.

A man or woman who has already had a child can also become infertile. A problem can develop in the years since the last child was born. Sometimes the problem is not the man’s or the woman’s alone but a combination of the two. And sometimes both partners seem to be healthy and no doctor or test can find out what is causing the problem.

a man's reproductive parts
a woman's reproductive parts
healthy egg
In a man with normal fertility,
healthy sperm are produced
in the testicles and inserted
in the woman’s vagina when
the man ejaculates
during sex.
In a woman with normal fertility,
sperm swim through the womb
and join with a healthy egg.
This page was updated:17 Apr 2019