From Infertility Treatment to Subfertility Treatment

By Dr. Andrea Hilborn, ND

The term infertility is falling out of favour because it isn't always accurate. A person's level of fertility isn't always black and white- fertile or infertile. It's more like a spectrum. Many people have started using the term subfertility, which I prefer.

Being subfertile means that a couple can still get pregnant, but they are less likely to get pregnant than average. For example, if a woman has polycystic ovarian syndrome, she may only ovulate every second or third cycle. Another example is a woman who has such low body fat that her menstrual cycles stop. She may not be ovulating, but with weight gain, her fertility can be restored.

Officially, the point at which doctors start to get concerned is if the couple has been having regular, unprotected intercourse for a year and have not conceived. When that happens, the couple is labelled infertile. This describes 15% of couples. However, the year cutoff point is quite arbitrary. Studies have shown that approximately half of people who don't conceive in their first year of trying, do conceive in their second, without any treatment.

A little information goes a long way to fixing many problems. For about 20-40% of couples, information about when to time intercourse is all that's needed to conceive.