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Difference between subfertility, infertility and sterility

Usually the above terms are used interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing.

What is subfertility?

Subfertility generally describes any form of reduced fertility with prolonged time of unwanted non-conception that hasn’t reached a year yet.

Normally a woman’s chance of conceiving each month is about 20%, when intercourse is properly timed. Even so, with intercourse during the most fertile days of a woman’s menstrual cycle, 80% of pregnancies will occur within six cycles among women under the age 30, according to research published in the journal Human Reproduction. After six unsuccessful cycles, about 20% of couples are considered at least slightly subfertile, but one-half of these couples will go on to conceive naturally or spontaneously in the next six cycles, before the definition of infertility sets in.

What is sterility?

Not being able to conceive is the most common sterility symptom. A person is said to be sterile if he or she is physically incapable of ever having a child without medical intervention, so sterility is not only referred to male factor infertility. 

In the case of men, sterility refers to an absence of sperm in semen and in the case of women, it refers to the nonexistence of ovulation.

What is infertility?

In infertility, the likelihood of conceiving without medical intervention is unlikely. This can be due to many factors, male, female or unexplained. More specifically, ⅓ of infertility may be caused by female issues, the other ⅓ by male issues, and the rest to reasons that can’t be medically explained yet. 

Male factor infertility: sperm abnormalities, obstructions, or ejaculatory dysfunction.

Female factor infertility: endometriosis, PCOS, blocked fallopian tubes, ovulation irregularities, etc.

The same male and female factors might be applicable to cases of subfertility too. 

Other risk factors that may affect subfertility are lifestyle ones, and those related with advanced age, mostly from the woman’s part.

Lifestyle factors: 

  • being a female over the age of 35
  • being a male over the age of 40
  • being overweight or underweight
  • Excessive smoking and drinking
  • excessive physical or emotional stress
  • exposure to radiation
  • certain medications
  • exposure to environmental toxins, such as lead and pesticides

Diagnosis of infertility

The fertility specialist is the one that will help you along the journey of subfertility or infertility, so it is of great importance to choose the one that you can communicate with easily, and feel comfortable with.

There are several tests that may need to be performed to you and your partner, apart from the physical examination which includes a pelvic exam for women and an examination of the genitals for men.

Testing for women:

  • transvaginal ultrasound to check the reproductive organs
  • blood tests to measure hormone levels related to ovulation
  • hysterosalpingography to evaluate the condition of the fallopian tubes and uterus
  • ovarian reserve testing to check the quality and quantity of eggs

Testing for men:

  • semen analysis
  • blood tests to determine hormone levels, including testosterone
  • imaging tests, such as a testicular ultrasound
  • genetic testing to check for genetic defects that can affect fertility
  • testicular biopsy to identify abnormalities

In any case, if you are under 35 years old and can’t conceive, or over the age of 35 and it has been a year of no conception, consult your fertility doctor for the best course of action.

If it is infertility you may need to proceed with a fertility treatment, such as IVF, IUI, egg donation, or ovarian rejuvenation, to maximize chances of conceiving.

Fortunately MEDIPASS cooperates with some top-notch clinics and experienced doctors that offer you the personalized fertility journey you deserve.

DM us to learn more.

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Difference between subfertility, infertility and sterility