USC Fertility

Unexplained Infertility

If no specific cause of infertility can be identified, a couple is diagnosed with unexplained infertility.

The first step for any couple that suffers from infertility is understanding how the body works under normal conditions, and then identifying what is going wrong in order to address the issue.  In order for pregnancy to occur, a precise sequence of events must take place.  A healthy, mature egg must be released from the ovary and met by one healthy sperm that has traveled through the female reproductive tract (vagina, cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes) at the right time.

Timing is often the most common obstacle to conception.

Once the egg is released from the ovary, the sperm only have 12-24 hours to fertilize the egg.  Once conception occurs, and an embryo is formed, it must make its way through the fallopian tube into the endometrial cavity (inside the lining of the uterus).  Once in a normal endometrial cavity, the embryo implants and develops into a fetus.  An interruption at any of these points can cause infertility.

After being evaluated for all the above components of fertility, there is a chance that an extensive work up will not reveal any abnormalities.

Even the most sophisticated diagnostic evaluation cannot reveal all possible abnormalities.  If no specific cause of infertility can be identified, a couple is diagnosed with unexplained infertility.  This can be a very frustrating diagnosis because it can deprive both the patient and the physician with a sense of control in understanding a single identifiable problem. If you are diagnosed with unexplained infertility, it is important to remember you are not alone.  This is a very common diagnosis among women with infertility, affecting up to 30% of all women who suffer from infertility.

However, there is a silver lining to being diagnosed with unexplained infertility.  Just because the cause of infertility is unexplained, that does not mean it is untreatable.  In the absence of an identifiable and correctable problem, the treatment is empiric.  There are multiple treatment modalities that can be used, including ovulation induction with intrauterine insemination (IUI) using oral or injectable medication and assisted reproductive technology (ART) using in vitro fertilization (IVF).  Treatment options are based on a number of factors.  These include age of the woman, duration of infertility, and desires of the couple.

Speak with your doctor to determine which treatment is the best course of action for you.