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  • Infertility vs Sterility: What’s the Difference?

Infertility vs Sterility: What’s the Difference?

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    difference-infertility-sterility

    Infertility and Sterility are equivalently used, but there is a thin line of difference between the two. Most of you who consider yourself sterile are only infertile. You might also wonder whether you or your spouse has a medical issue that needs to be checked. 

    To clear this confusion, take some time to learn the truth behind these terms and what causes them. Then consult a gynecologist doctor to know what should be done next.

    What is Infertility?

    Infertility is when you cannot get pregnant after one year of having unprotected intercourse. If you are a woman, causes of Infertility can include endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and thyroid disease. If you are a man, you could be infertile because of low sperm count or sex hormone levels.

    What is Sterility?

    Sterility is a condition in which you are physically incapable of ever having a child even with medical intervention. For sterile men, this refers to an absence of sperm in their semen or the presence of any other reproductive defect, and, for women, it could be the absence of ovulation.

    What’s the difference between Infertility and Sterility?

    The difference between these two terms is quite significant but often overlooked. If you are Infertile, that means you can conceive, but it’s more difficult, whereas if you are sterile, you cannot conceive, regardless of any medical or surgical intervention. 

     Hence, Sterility means the inability to conceive, and Infertility is the inability to complete a full-term pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby.

    Infertility

    • In Infertility, you cannot conceive with appropriate, timed, and unprotected intercourse for one year. The duration of time is shortened to six months if you are 35 years or older.
    • Unlike Sterility, Infertility is not always because of a medical condition or procedure.

    Sterility

    • Sterility is the inability to have a baby because of a medical condition or procedure—such as tubal ligation (tying your tubes) or removal of reproductive organs.
    • You can also experience Sterility after the removal of the uterus.

    How to treat sterility and infertility?

    As such sterility is an incurable problem but fortunately, the issue of infertility can be solved. Treatment of infertility depends on factors such as the cause, age, how long you’ve been infertile and personal preferences, but some cases can’t be corrected. Luckily, there are many safe and effective treatment options, such as the use of assisted reproductive technology, that significantly improve your likelihood of getting pregnant. 

     For men, the below treatment options are advised;

    • Surgery, if the cause is widening veins in the scrotum or a blockage seen in sperm carrying tubes.
    • Antibiotics to treat reproductive organs infections
    • Medications and counseling for erections or ejaculation problems.
    • Hormonal therapy for a low or high level of sex hormones.

     And for women:

    • Fertility drugs and hormones are prescribed to help with ovulation or restore the balance of sex hormones.
    • Surgery to remove damaged tissue of reproductive organs like uterus or ovaries, causing Infertility.
    • IVF is considered if none of the above work.

    Myths and Facts About Infertility

    If you are having trouble getting pregnant, you’re not alone. Infertility is pretty common nowadays. Yet, you might hear unsolicited & misleading opinions and advice from people all the time. Some of the myths about Infertility are

    Myth: Infertility is a rare condition

    Fact: Infertility is a common issue, but many cases go undetected as you may assume yourself sterile and avoid seeing a doctor.

    Myth: if you already have one child, you do not need to worry about Infertility when planning a second child.

    Fact: almost 30% of couples diagnosed with Infertility already have a child. So even if you have one or more children, you may develop Infertility.

    Myth: Age only affects fertility in women.

    Fact: Age equally affects fertility in men & women. The number of viable eggs reduces after the age of 30 in women. Similarly, semen volume reduces in men after 40.

    Conclusion

    Infertility and Sterility are two completely diverse concepts. Sterility is the inability to get pregnant, and Infertility is not being able to complete a full-term pregnancy or give birth to a normal baby. This difference is not just conceptual since the studies to understand the causes and the treatment for both conditions are different. So now, if your concepts are clear and you find them relatable to your pregnancy issues, do consult a doctor for further advice. 

    You can also book an appointment to consult our experts and increase the chances of pregnancy.

    About Author

    Dr. Avinash Phadnis

    35+ Years Experience

    Gynecologist & Obstetrician | IVF & Infertility Specialist

    Dr. Avinash Phadnis has over 35 years of experience as a practicing surgeon and is a leading gynecologist and Infertility specialist in India. He has expertise in disorders of the female reproductive system, infertility, High-Risk Obstetrics, Endometriosis, PCOS, Adolescent Gynecology, Middle age gynecology and menopause, Personalized weight management and childbirth, etc.

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