Infertility - How and Why Age Is a Factor - Large

What is Infertility?

Infertility is a problem of the reproductive system that affects the body's ability to reproduce. It could be caused by a problem with your system, your partner’s, or both.

There’s a lot that goes into making a baby. That means a lot can go wrong, too. The sperm and egg both need to be healthy, the fallopian tubes need to be open, the sperm needs to be able to fertilize the egg, and the egg has to implant in the uterus. On top of that, the embryo must be healthy. If just one of those is off, that can lead to infertility.

Infertility is not just a woman's concern. Half the time, a male problem causes or contributes. For many couples, more than one factor plays a role. In a few cases, a cause for infertility can’t be found.

If you think you’re unable to get pregnant, see your doctor early.

How Does Age Contribute to Infertility?

A key factor in defining infertility is age, according to Steven Lindheim, MD, of Wright State Physicians Obstetrics & Gynecology. “Infertility is a year of actively trying to conceive without any type of protection. But it’s very age-dependent,” Dr. Lindheim says. He defines infertility as:

  • For women under age 35 – the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected sex
  • For women over age 35 – the inability to conceive after six months of unprotected sex
  • For women over age 40 – the inability to conceive after three months of unprotected sex

“The large reason for that is that with advancing reproductive age, it becomes an egg issue,” Dr. Lindheim explains. “Or as women are heading towards the reproductive twilight, they start running out of eggs. So we would define fertility a little more aggressively than if you were younger.”

Hear more about infertility from Dr. Steven Lindheim.

Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.


Aging decreases a woman’s chances of having a baby in several ways:

  • Your ovaries become less able to release eggs.
  • You have a smaller number of eggs left.
  • Your eggs are not as healthy.
  • You are more likely to have health conditions that can cause fertility problems.
  • You are more likely to have a miscarriage.

How is Infertility Diagnosed?

To diagnose infertility, your doctor tests both you and your partner. Some health care providers can do a basic infertility evaluation. But you might choose to see a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist instead. This is an OB/GYN who specializes in infertility and is certified with the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Your doctor is looking for answers to these questions:

  • Are you ovulating regularly?
  • Is your partner making healthy sperm?
  • Are your egg and your partner’s sperm able to unite and grow normally?
  • Are there any problems with implantation?
  • Are you able to maintain the pregnancy?
As women are heading towards the reproductive twilight, they start running out of eggs.

What to Expect When Being Diagnosed

Be prepared to answer a lot of really personal questions at this point. Your doctor will take a full health and sexual history for both you and your partner. It might feel intrusive, but your answers will help the doctor determine any physical causes of infertility and find out if you are having sex at the right time.

In addition to your history, you might also have any of the following tests:Infertility - How and Why Age Is a Factor - In Content

For You

  • Physical exam. You will have a complete physical exam including a Pap test and testing for infection.
  • Ovulation evaluation. You can check to see if you are ovulating by keeping a basal body temperature chart. This is your morning body temperature. Other ovulation prediction methods use urine samples.
  • Hormone testing. Hormone testing may be recommended. Certain hormones increase and decrease during the monthly cycle.
  • Ultrasound. Ultrasound can show the follicles which are the sacs that contain the developing eggs. It can also show the thickness of the uterine tissues. Your doctor can also check for problems such as ovarian cysts or fibroids.
  • X-rays. A hysterosalpingogram may be advised. This test involves a dye injected into the cervical opening to let the doctor see inside the uterus and if your fallopian tubes are open.

For Him

  • Semen analysis. A semen sample is taken and tested in the lab. With this, the doctor can:
    • Check the sperm count
    • Test sperm motility
    • Check the number of and shape of the sperm
    • Evaluate the ejaculate liquid

Other tests may be done that test the sperm's ability to penetrate the egg, as well as male hormone testing.

Men may be sent to a urologist for further testing.

Schedule an appointment

To find an OB/GYN or primary care provider, call (937) 489-4880(937) 489-4880 or complete the form below to receive a call from our call center to schedule an appointment.