According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 7.3 million Americans, or one in eight couples of childbearing age, are infertile. There are several risk factors that can contribute to problems with male and female fertility, including extreme weight gain or loss, age, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), smoking and alcohol use. Infertility is a disease or condition of the reproductive system that affects an estimated 10 to 15 percent of couples trying to conceive in the United States. It occurs in both women and men; in fact, female factors and male factors each account for approximately one-third of all infertility cases. The remaining cases arise from insufficiency in both partners, or the cause of infertility simply cannot be explained.

Early detection and treatment of infertility can help achieve a successful pregnancy outcome. With advances in technology and our personalized approach for each patient, UCRM is able to offer a range of effective treatment options to address both female and male infertility problems. From simple hormonal treatment, ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination (IUI) to the more advanced technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), or third party reproductive strategies such as surrogacy, donor egg and embryo donation, UCRM is helping more patients realize their hopes and dreams of achieving parenthood.

Infertility

What is infertility?

Infertility is defined by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) as a disease of the reproductive system that impairs the body's ability to perform the basic function of reproduction. Although conceiving a child may seem to be simple and natural, the physiological process is quite complicated and depends on the proper function of many factors, including the following, as listed by the ASRM:

  • Production of healthy sperm by the man

  • Production of healthy eggs by the woman

  • Unblocked fallopian tubes that allow the sperm to reach the egg

  • The sperm's ability to fertilize the egg

  • The ability of the fertilized egg to become implanted in the uterus

  • Adequate embryo quality

Who is affected by infertility?

Infertility affects about 12 percent of couples of childbearing age. Infertility is not just a woman's concern. A problem with the male is the sole cause, or a contributing cause, of infertility in about 50 percent of infertile couples. About one-third of infertile couples have more than one cause or factor related to their inability to conceive.

What causes infertility?

Many different factors and problems can cause infertility, including problems in the female reproductive system, the male reproductive system, or a combination of the two. The following are some of the conditions or factors that are associated with infertility:

  • Female factors

    • Ovulation dysfunction. With this condition, the woman's reproductive system does not produce the proper amounts of hormones necessary to develop, mature, and release a healthy egg.

    • Anatomical problems. Abnormal development or function of the female anatomy can prevent the egg and the sperm from meeting. The most common anatomical problem is blockage of the fallopian tubes. Other anatomical problems may include the presence of pelvic scar tissue from previous surgeries or infections.

    • Endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus develops outside the uterus, usually on other reproductive organs inside the pelvis or in the abdominal cavity. Each month, this misplaced tissue responds to the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle by building up and breaking down, resulting in internal bleeding which can cause scar tissue to form and affect reproductive organ function.

    • Birth defects. Abnormal development and function of reproductive organs resulting from birth defects can affect fertility. One of the most common reproductive system birth defects occurs following a woman's exposure to DES (diethylstilbestrol) taken by her mother during pregnancy. In years past, DES was given to women at risk for pregnancy loss. Fetal DES exposure often causes abnormal development of the uterus and cervix.

    • Infection. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is caused by a type of bacteria such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. PID can affect the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or the ovaries. It can lead to pelvic adhesions and scar tissue that develops between internal organs, causing ongoing pelvic pain and the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy (the fertilized egg becomes implanted outside the uterus).

    • Immunological problems. A problem with a woman's immune system can lead to pregnancy loss. Antibodies (immune or protective proteins) in a woman's system can fail to recognize a pregnancy, or there may be an abnormal immune response to the pregnancy. Women can also develop antisperm antibodies which attack and destroy sperm.

  • Male factors

    • Low or absent sperm production. Without proper numbers of healthy sperm, the chance of fertilization is decreased.

    • Abnormal sperm function. Sperm must have proper motility and the ability to penetrate the egg.

    • Varicocele. This is a condition in which varicose veins develop around the testes. It is a very common cause of male factor infertility and is usually treatable and reversible with surgery.

    • Lifestyle. Use of recreational drugs (i.e., marijuana, cocaine), heavy alcohol use, cigarette smoking, certain medications, and excessive heat to the genital area (as in hot tubs) can affect sperm quality and function.

    • Hormonal disorders. Improper male hormone or endocrine function can affect sperm production and fertilization ability.

    • Chromosomal defects. Certain chromosomal abnormalities are associated with male infertility.

    • Birth defects. Abnormalities in a man's reproductive system can occur during fetal development. Some birth defects are due to a man's exposure to DES (diethylstilbestrol) taken by his mother during pregnancy.

    • Immunological problems. A man may have antisperm antibodies (immune or protective proteins) which attack and destroy sperm

How is infertility diagnosed?

When conception does not occur after one year of unprotected intercourse, after six months in women over age 35, or if there are known problems causing infertility, a medical evaluation of both the male and female is recommended. Some obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYNs), certified nurse midwifes (CNMs), and nurse practitioners (NPs) are able to provide basic infertility evaluation and treatment. However, many causes of infertility are best treated by a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist. This is an OB/GYN who has had additional education and training in infertility and is certified with the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the sub-specialty of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.

Generally, the OB/GYN or reproductive endocrinologist will evaluate specific situations and perform tests in both the male and female partners to determine the cause of infertility. The doctor is looking for answers to the following questions:

  1. Is the female ovulating regularly?

  2. Is the male producing healthy, viable sperm?

  3. Are the female's egg and the male's sperm able to unite and grow normally?

  4. Are there any obstacles to proper implantation and maintenance of the pregnancy?

The following tests are often part of the basic medical workup for infertility.

  • Both partners

    • Medical and sexual history (to evaluate possible physical causes of infertility and if sexual intercourse has been appropriately timed)

  • Female

    • Physical examination. A complete physical examination (including a Pap smear and testing for infection) will be necessary.

    • Ovulation evaluation. An evaluation of ovulation function using an analysis of body temperatures and ovulation called the basal body temperature chart, or with ovulation prediction methods using urine samples, may be recommended.

    • Hormone testing. Hormone testing may be recommended, as certain hormones increase and decrease in production at various times in the monthly cycle.

    • Ultrasound. Ultrasound can show the presence of follicles (the sacs containing developing eggs) and the thickness of the uterine tissues. Ultrasound can also show abnormal conditions, such as ovarian cysts or fibroids (benign tumors in the uterus).

    • X-rays. A hysterosalpingogram may be recommended. This test uses a radio-opaque dye injected into the cervical opening to visualize the inside of the uterus and determine if the fallopian tubes are open.

  • Male

    • Semen analysis. A collection of a semen sample obtained by masturbation that is analyzed in the laboratory for the sperm count, sperm motility, sperm shape, quantity, and evaluation of the ejaculate liquid may be recommended.

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

    Men may be referred to a urologist for further evaluation.

What is the treatment for infertility?

Specific treatment for infertility will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the disorder

  • Cause of the disorder

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disorder

  • Your opinion or preference

Once a diagnosis is made, the specialist can work with you to determine the course of treatment. According to the ASRM, most infertility cases (85 to 90 percent) are treated with conventional therapies, such as drug treatment or surgical repair of reproductive abnormalities. Depending on the cause of infertility, there are many options to offer an infertile couple.

Types of treatments for women may include the following:

  • Ovulation medications. These medications help regulate the timing of ovulation and stimulate the development and release of mature eggs. They can also help correct hormonal problems that can affect the lining of the uterus as it prepares to receive a fertilized egg. Ovulation medications can stimulate more than one egg to be released which increases the possibility of having twins and other multiples. Some of the common ovulation medications include the following:

    • Clomiphene citrate

    • Human menopausal gonadotropins. Medications containing follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH)

    • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

  • Intrauterine insemination. For some conditions, including low sperm count and cervical mucus problems, a procedure that places specially washed and prepared sperm directly into the uterus through a small catheter (flexible tube) helps increase the chances for conception. This procedure is often used in combination with ovulation medications.

  • Surgery. Surgery may be used to treat or repair a condition that is causing infertility such as fallopian tube blockage, or endometriosis. A common surgical procedure often used as part of the diagnostic workup of infertility is the laparoscopy. In a laparoscopy, a small telescope inserted into the abdominal or pelvic cavity allows internal organs to be visualized. Some procedures to treat infertility can be performed using instruments inserted through the laparoscope.

  • Assisted reproductive technology (ART). For some couples, more extensive treatment is needed. With most forms of ART, the sperm and egg are united in the laboratory and the fertilized egg is returned to the woman's uterus where it can implant and develop. Although ART procedures are often costly, many are being used with success. These include the following:

    • In vitro fertilization (IVF). Involves extracting a woman's eggs, fertilizing the eggs in the laboratory with sperm, and then transferring the resulting embryo(s) into the woman's uterus through the cervix (embryo transfer) where it can develop. Most couples transfer two embryos; however, more may be transferred in certain cases. IVF is the most common form of ART and it is often the treatment of choice for a woman with blocked, severely damaged, or absent fallopian tubes. IVF is also used for infertility caused by endometriosis or male factor infertility. IVF is sometimes used to treat couples with long-term unexplained infertility who have not been able to conceive with other infertility treatments.

    • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). A procedure in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg; this procedure is most commonly used to help with male factor infertility problems.

    • Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT). Involves using a fiber-optic instrument called a laparoscope to guide the transfer of unfertilized eggs and sperm into the woman's fallopian tubes through small incisions in her abdomen. GIFT is only used in women with healthy fallopian tubes.

    • Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT). Involves fertilizing a woman's eggs in the laboratory and then using a laparoscope to guide the transfer of the fertilized eggs (zygotes) into her fallopian tubes. ZIFT is only used in women with healthy fallopian tubes.

    • Donor eggs. Involves an embryo formed from the egg of one woman (the donor) being transferred to another woman who is unable to conceive with her own eggs (the recipient). The donor relinquishes all parental rights to any resulting offspring. ART using donor eggs is much more common among older women than among younger women. The likelihood of a fertilized egg implanting is related to the age of the woman who produced the egg. Egg donors are typically in their 20s or early 30s.

    • Embryo cryopreservation. A procedure in which embryos are preserved through freezing (cryopreservation) for transfer at a later date. This procedure is often used when an IVF cycle produces more embryos than can be transferred at one time. The remaining embryos can be transferred in a future cycle if the woman does not become pregnant.

There is a range of treatment options currently available for male factor infertility. Treatment may include:

  • Assisted reproductive technologies (ART)
    This type of treatment may include the following:

    • Artificial insemination. Artificial insemination involves the placement of relatively large numbers of healthy sperm either at the entrance of the cervix or into the partner's uterus, bypassing the cervix, to have direct access to the fallopian tubes.

    • IVF, GIFT, and other techniques. In vitro fertilization (IVF) or gamete intra-fallopian transfer (GIFT) have been used for the treatment of male infertility. As is the case with artificial insemination, IVF and similar techniques offer the opportunity to prepare sperm in vitro, so that oocytes are exposed to an optimal concentration of high quality, motile sperm.

    • Microsurgical fertilization (microinjection techniques such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI). This treatment is used to facilitate sperm penetration by injection of a single sperm into the oocyte. Fertilization then takes place under the microscope.

  • Drug therapy. A small percentage of infertile men have a hormonal disorder that can be treated with hormone therapy. Hormonal imbalances caused by a dysfunction in the mechanism of interaction between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the testes directly affect the development of sperm (spermatogenesis). Drug therapy may include gonadotrophin therapy, antibiotics, or another medication deemed appropriate.

  • Surgery. Surgical therapy in male infertility is designed to overcome anatomical barriers that impede sperm production and maturation or ejaculation. Surgical procedures to remove varicose veins in the scrotum (varicocele) can sometimes serve to improve the quality of sperm.

What is unexplained infertility?

About 5 to 10 percent of couples have unexplained infertility, for which a cause, despite all investigations, is not found. Unexplained infertility does not mean there is no reason for the problem, but that the reason is unable to be identified at the present time.

If you suspect you are experiencing infertility, seek medical consultation early. The age of the woman and the duration of the couple's infertility may influence the success of treatment.

Infertility Risk Factors for Men and Women

For women. General factors that can affect the ability to ovulate, conceive, or deliver a child successfully include the following:

  • Age. Women in their late 30s and older are generally less fertile than women in their early 20s

  • Endometriosis

  • Chronic diseases (diabetes, lupus, arthritis, hypertension, or asthma)

  • Hormonal imbalance

  • Environmental factors. Cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, or exposure to workplace hazards or toxins

  • Excessive or very low body fat

  • Abnormal Pap smears that have been treated with cryosurgery or cone biopsy

  • DES taken by mother during pregnancy

  • Sexually transmitted diseases

  • Fallopian tube disease

  • Multiple miscarriages

For men. Infertility is not just a woman's problem. Following is a list of risk factors related to male infertility:

  • History of prostatitis, genital infection, or sexually transmitted diseases

  • Exposure to hazards on the job or toxic substances, such as radiation, radioactivity, welding, and many chemicals, including lead, ethylene dibromine, and vinyl chloride.

  • Cigarette or marijuana smoke

  • Heavy alcohol consumption

  • Exposure of the genitals to high temperatures

  • Hernia repair

  • Undescended testicles

  • Prescription drugs for ulcers or psoriasis

  • DES taken by mother during pregnancy

  • Mumps after puberty

Douglas T. Carrell, Ph.D., H.C.L.D.

Doug Carrell received his Ph.D. degree in reproductive physiology from the University of Utah in 1995, after receiving a M.S. degree in cellular and developmental biology from Brigham Young University. Dr. Carrell has worked in the area of research and treatment of human infertility for 30 years. Dr. Carrell is ... Read More

Specialties:

Andrology, In Vitro Fertilization, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility

Locations:

Andrology & IVF Laboratories (801) 581-3740

Jessie A. Dorais, M.D.

Jessie Dorais, M.D. as a Clinical Assistant Professor, in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Dr. Dorais received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Brigham Young University in 2003, and her M.D. from the University of Illinois, College of Medicine in 2007. She completed her O... Read More

Specialties:

Endometriosis, In Vitro Fertilization, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, Tubal Ligation Reversal

Locations:

South Jordan Health Center (801) 581-3834
University Hospital (801) 581-3834
Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine (801) 581-3834

James M. Hotaling, M.D., FECSM

Dr. Hotaling has significant training in both the clinical aspects of male fertility and genetic epidemiology and he is currently the only fellowship trained male infertility/andrology expert in Utah. He completed a 6 year residency in urology at the University of Washington, elected to pursue a year of sub-sp... Read More

Specialties:

Andrology, General Urology, Men's Health, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, Urology

Locations:

Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine (801) 587-1454

Erica B. Johnstone, M.D.

Erica B. Johnstone, M.D., M.H.S., is a gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Dr. Johnstone clinical interests include reproductive endocrine disorders and all types of infertility, and she also works with hormonal disorders in children and ad... Read More

Specialties:

In Vitro Fertilization, Menopause, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility

Locations:

Centerville Health Center
Madsen Health Center
South Jordan Health Center (801) 581-3834
Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine (801) 581-3834

William R. Keye, M.D.

William R. Keye, M.D., is a board-certified physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, as well as reproductive endocrinology and infertility. He received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota, and was an original member of the University of Utah’s I.V.F.(in vitro fertilization) team. He s... Read More

Specialties:

Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility

Locations:

Redstone Health Center (801) 581-3834
South Jordan Health Center (801) 581-3834
Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine (801) 581-3834

Specialties:

Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Andrew K. Moore, M.D.

As a sixth-generation resident of Utah Valley, Dr. Moore is pleased to bring the University of Utah’s world-class reproductive medicine closer to home for Utah Valley and southern Salt Lake county residents. He has office hourse daily in Orem, and also each week in South Jordan. During his first year of practi... Read More

Specialties:

Endometriosis, In Vitro Fertilization, Minimally Invasive Pelvic Surgery, Pelvic Pain, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Recurrent Miscarriage, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, Robotic Surgery, Tubal Ligation Reversal

Locations:

Parkway Health Center (801) 581-3834
Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine (801) 581-3834
Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (801) 581-3834

C. Matthew Peterson, M.D.

Matthew Peterson, M.D., is a Reproductive Endocrinologist in the University of Utah Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Peterson received his undergraduate degree, magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 1977 and his M.D. from the University of Utah in 1981. His residency training in obstetrics... Read More

Specialties:

Adolescent Gynecology, Endometriosis, Gynecological Surgery, Gynecology, In Vitro Fertilization, Minimally Invasive Pelvic Surgery, Pediatric Gynecology, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, Tubal Ligation Reversal, Women's Genetic Counseling

Locations:

Centerville Health Center (801) 581-3834
Parkway Health Center (801) 581-3834
South Jordan Health Center (801) 581-3834
University Hospital (801) 581-3834
Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine (801) 581-3834

Reproductive Medicine services are available at the Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine as well as multiple locations through out the state of Utah, including Centerville, Orem, South Jordan and Park City. Our reproductive endocrinologists offer a wide range of services including:

  • Infertility counseling
  • Infertility monitoring and treatment
  • IUD insertion and removal
  • Annual gynecological exams
  • Endocrinology
  • Diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Treatment of endometriosis
  • Pediatric and adolescent gynecology services

Our highly trained reproductive endocrinology specialists are experts in both the treatment and research of infertility and our clinic consistently boasts one of the highest success rates in the nation.

Neighborhood Health Center Locations:

Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine 675 Arapeen Way, Suite 205
Salt Lake City, Utah 84108-1237
Map
University of Utah Health Care
Centerville Health Center
26 South Main
Centerville, Utah 84014
Map
Dixie Regional Medical Center 544 South 300 East
St. George, UT 84770
Map
McKay Dee Hospital 4401 Harrison Blvd.
Ogden, UT 84403
Map
University of Utah Health Care
Redstone Health Center
1743 W. Redstone Center Drive, #115
Park City, Utah 84098
Map
University of Utah Health Care
South Jordan Health Center
1091 W. South Jordan Parkway, Suite 500
South Jordan, 84095
Map
Utah Valley Regional Medical Center
Woman’s and Children’s Clinic
1034 N 500 W
Provo, Utah 84604
  • FAZST
    Keywords: Fertility, reproductive medicine, pregnancy outcomes, folic acid and zinc supplementation trial, semen quality, infertility
    Status: Recruiting
  • MORENDO
    Keywords: Endometriosis
    Status: Active, not recruiting
  • Healthy Conceptions for Couples Intervention Pilot Study
    Keywords: Infertility, Obesity, polycystic ovarian syndrome, emotionally focused therapy, weight loss
    Status: Recruiting