Causes & Treatment

Is “Infertility” the Same as Having “Fertility Difficulties”? A Fertility Specialist Explains

Eloise Edington  |  19 Apr 2022

Ever wondered what the difference is between “infertility” and having “fertility problems”?

At Fertility Help Hub, we constantly endeavor to raise awareness of infertility and the struggles people have trying to conceive.

Today, fertility expert Dr. Samuel E. Brown (Founder of Brown Fertility) answers your questions about infertility and explains a common query our fertility community has: what is the difference between infertility and fertility problems?

Based in Florida, Brown Fertility (visit their website here) uses cutting-edge technology to deliver impressive success rates for fertility treatment. Fertility specialists at Brown Fertility primarily see and treat age factor infertility, unexplained infertility, male factor infertility, miscarriage, endometriosis, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and have a wide range of experience to help you on your unique fertility journey.

Read on for a fertility specialist’s answers to your common fertility questions.

Firstly, what is “infertility” and is it different from having “fertility difficulties”?

There is no primary difference between an infertility diagnosis and having fertility difficulties; they are the same.

If a woman is 35 and under and has had simple unprotected intercourse for one year without pregnancy success, she is diagnosed with infertility. If the woman is over 35 years old and has had simple unprotected intercourse for six months without pregnancy, she is diagnosed with infertility.

An infertility diagnosis is very straightforward whereas fertility struggles are what comes with that; the journey once you receive that infertility diagnosis.

About 30% of the time, there’s no obvious reason for infertility. Sperm analysis looks good, ovulation is happening and heterosexual couples are looking for an explanation. For families experiencing unexplained infertility, medications and fertility treatment such as intrauterine insemination, and in-vitro fertilization can help you conceive.

I’ve been diagnosed with infertility… what next?

We always tell patients: never give up! If you are trying to conceive and are unsuccessful, please see a trusted Reproductive Endocrinologist. As fertility specialists, our job is to identify what is causing the inability to conceive and from there, we go through fertility treatment options together. It’s important to hold onto hope during this difficult (and sometimes, seemingly impossible) journey as a positive outlook has been associated with improved fertility treatment outcomes.

  1. The first step after an infertility diagnosis is to schedule a new patient consultation to discuss your specific circumstances.
  2. Fertility specialists may then conduct various tests to rule out the cause of infertility, one by one.  These tests may include ovulation detection and evaluation of your fallopian tubes, cervix, and uterus.  Your partner (if applicable) will have a semen analysis.
  3. Once testing is complete, your appropriate fertility treatment plan can be started immediately.  Keep in mind that oftentimes, inexpensive medicine or simple surgery that is covered by insurance (depending on your state) will correct any problems.
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Learn more about fertility specialist Dr. Brown

Dr. Samuel E. Brown, Medical Director and Founder of Brown Fertility, has been directly involved in the management of more than 15,000 IVF cycles and was the first surgeon in the state of Florida to pioneer minimally invasive robotic gynecological surgery for the treatment of infertility. He has successfully completed over 2,000 hospital-based surgical procedures.⁠⁠

Dr. Brown completed his Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Fellowship at the renowned Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine under IVF pioneers Dr. Georgeanna and Dr. Howard Jones, Jr, which is home of the first US IVF baby!⁠⁠

This year, he’s partnered with that baby, Elizabeth Carr, (now 40 years old) to advocate for continued education surrounding infertility and reproductive services, and making these services accessible and affordable for everyone.

Most infertility cases we see at Brown Fertility (85% to 90%) are treated with conventional medical therapies, such as medication or surgery. In-vitro fertilization and similar fertility treatments account for less than 3% of infertility services and aren’t necessary for everyone.

What if my male partner receives an infertility diagnosis?

The male infertility factor requires a different approach from how we support female-factor infertility. The most effective way to identify male factor fertility issues is to perform a simple lab test called a semen analysis. The semen sample is analyzed to measure volume and determine the number and quality of sperm.

If we conclude male factor infertility is the root cause, we typically recommend a lifestyle check. Limiting tobacco and alcohol, increasing exercise, and prioritizing a healthy weight can help. However, abnormal sperm function and production, or problems with delivering the sperm require involvement from a fertility specialist. In these cases, fertility treatment such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or IVF with ICSI (where a single sperm is injected right into the egg) will be recommended.

Is it possible to increase my fertility?

For fertility, there’s not much more you can do than just be on top of your overall health. Diet, exercise, trying to maintain a normal weight, and eating healthy, whole foods are important steps to supporting your fertility.

If you’re trying to conceive, we recommend women take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day before and throughout the pregnancy.

Most prenatal vitamins will contain folic acid, plus extra calcium and iron, which we also recommend. A recent recommendation is for women to use low-dose aspirin, (about 1 mg daily) before and during their pregnancies as it’s been shown to decrease the risk of preeclampsia.

Can I effectively track ovulation at home?

When it comes to ovulation evaluation, urine ovulation predictor kits are a robust way of determining if a woman is ovulating. Other ways to reliably determine ovulation are basal body temperature charts (or BBTs).

How do complications like polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis affect female fertility?

Despite popular belief, PCOS and endometriosis do not cause miscarriages. Yes, both can cause infertility but each condition has its own considerations when it comes to fertility complications.

Put very simply: a woman with PCOS will not ovulate properly or regularly. In comparison, endometriosis can result in the egg not being fertilized in the fallopian due to the presence of endometriosis, or the egg is fertilized in the fallopian tube, but the endometriosis results in associated problems. Please bear in mind this is an overly-simplistic answer and if you have PCOS or endometriosis, we recommend you speak with your fertility specialist for conception support.

Fertility Help

Infertility is different for us all.  So we asked our community “What does infertility mean to you?”  Here’s what you said:

For Harriet, infertility is “a huge learning curve.”

Jess says infertility is “hope” whilst Estella says she “feels hopeless and out of control.”

Paige feels that infertility is “a world of unknown.”

For Rachel, infertility is steeped in “uncertainty and hormones.”

Alyssa says infertility is “an emotional rollercoaster” and finds it “lonely and hard.”

Bernadett, too, says infertility is characterized by “loneliness.”

Lauren knows that a fertility journey entails a lot of “waiting.”

Nina* says infertility is epitomized by “not always knowing the answer to “Why” but trying to find the answer to “What next?”

A fertility journey doesn’t need to be hopeless or lonely, so seek out a fertility community (download our free app here) for support. It’s also important to undergo fertility treatment with a fertility clinic and specialist you trust so don’t be afraid to ask questions to find out if a clinic is right for you.

Understanding ways to support your health and fertility as well as knowing the role hormonal and reproductive conditions play can help you advocate for yourself on your fertility journey.

Remember that fertility treatment doesn’t have to be in your backyard and Brown Fertility has the cutting-edge technology to help you build your family.

To speak with an expert fertility clinic, no matter where you are in the world, request an appointment with Brown Fertility here.

Catch up on FHH’s IG Live with Dr. Brown here.

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