What is fertility?

Fertility is the ability to reproduce; men who are fertile are able to father children and fertile women are able to get pregnant and carry their baby to full term, with a live birth nine months after conception. This all happens naturally as a result of sexual intercourse.

Of course, fertility can sometimes be a problem. When we are in our late teens and early 20s, our sex drive is high and our fertility levels also peak. This combination leads to a high level of unwanted teenage pregnancies in many countries in the western world and to a high birth rate in areas of poverty in the less developed world.

As we age, our fertility starts to decline. This is particularly true in women; pregnancy rates for natural conceptions, and after infertility treatments, drop drastically between the ages of 35 and 40. This is thought to be one reason why fertility issues have been increasing steadily over the last 50 years in developed countries; women tend now to leave having a family until later because the pressure to work and have a career is greater. Other factors include increasing obesity and the rise in sexually transmitted disease.

Around 10% to 15 % of couples who want to start a family face problems with their fertility. This may be due to a problem with the male partner or the female partner, or a combination of the two. Although many people spend their early sexual life suppressing their fertility, when they want to have children and cannot, they feel cheated of an important part of normal life and this can cause severe emotional and social issues.

Fertility clinics around the world now offer a range of treatments to allow couples who are experiencing infertility to become fertile and have the family they want. Not all cultures and religious groups agree with medical intervention of this kind, so not all couples have access to infertility treatments.

What are fertility treatments? Although it is strictly accurate to say that couples can have problems with their fertility, or that they are experiencing infertility, and that fertility clinics provide infertility treatments, the terms are commonly used interchangeably. So, you will find some internet sites that describe fertility clinics while others refer to infertility clinics. Similarly, fertility treatment and infertility treatment are used to mean the same thing.

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