National Infertility Awareness Week - Subfertility, Not Infertility
National Infertility Awareness Week and Medical Monday
In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), we are looking at different aspects of infertility a little more closely all week. Asking questions and digging a little deeper. Since today is Medical Monday on PathtoFertility, I thought we would start with the basics.
What is infertility?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), we have the following clinical definition:
Infertility is “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse."
The WHO had several other definitions of infertility listed as well, including ones related to demographics, epidemiology, disability and primary and secondary causes.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) have collaborated and have identical infertility FAQ’s on their sites. They publish a list of quick facts, as well as a more wide ranging FAQ list, among many other resources for those having trouble conceiving. The first one that they list?
Infertility is NOT an inconvenience; it is a disease of the reproductive system that impairs the body's ability to perform the basic function of reproduction.
Subfertility - What's the Difference?
ASRM and SART give a more comprehensive definition of infertility, which could also be the definition of subfertility:
"Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system that impairs one of the body's most basic functions: the conception of children. Conception is a complicated process that depends upon many factors: on the production of healthy sperm by the man and healthy eggs by the woman; unblocked fallopian tubes that allow the sperm to reach the egg; the sperm's ability to fertilize the egg when they meet; the ability of the fertilized egg (embryo) to become implanted in the woman's uterus; and sufficient embryo quality.
Finally, for the pregnancy to continue to full term, the embryo must be healthy and the woman's hormonal environment adequate for its development. When just one of these factors is impaired, infertility can result."
While the American College of Gynecology (ACOG) has much of its information for their members only, it does have a non-vetted list of resources for high risk pregnancy, pregnancy loss and infertility information.
WebMD had an interesting view on infertility, in starting to define the difference between fertility and sterility:
Infertility doesn't always doesn't mean a person is sterile -- unable ever to have a child. Up to 15% of all couples are infertile, but only 1% to 2% are sterile. Half of couples who seek help can eventually have a child, either on their own or with medical help.
Just to round out these different points on what fertility, infertility, and subfertility, I went to the Oxford Journal on Human Reproduction. Their definition of subfertility was quite lengthy. Here is just the very beginning:
A common definition of sub- and infertility is very important for the appropriate management of infertility. Subfertility generally describes any form of reduced fertility with prolonged time of unwanted non-conception.
A good starting place for National Infertility Awareness Week is that most of us do NOT have infertility. We have sub-fertility. That is why so many of us do become pregnant with the help of a board certified reproductive endocrinologist.
Subfertility. I rather prefer it to infertility.
What do you think?
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About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.