Sterility and Infertility; Explaining the Definitions and Consequences of Each

Dealing with infertility can be a challenging experience, for many people and couples. Here at the Fertility Institute of San Diego our goal is to offer compassionate care equipping our patients with the knowledge to navigate their reproductive well being. Under the guidance of our respected Medical Director Dr. Minoos Hosseinzadeh we aim to shed light on the perplexing terms and outcomes associated with infertility and sterility. This article delves into the definitions, causes and consequences of each condition to provide clarity as you embark on your fertility journey.

Getting to Grips with the Basics

Infertility is described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a reproductive system disorder marked by an inability to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of unprotected sexual activity. It can be further divided into infertility (when pregnancy has never occurred) and secondary infertility (when there has been a pregnancy but not subsequently).

In contrast, sterility denotes an inability to achieve pregnancy. This could result from factors impacting either partner, such as male sperm production issues or female reproductive organ removal.
It’s a situation compared to infertility, which can often be addressed or controlled.

Causes and Effects

Infertility can stem from factors affecting both males and females. In women common causes include;
● Ovulation Disorders; Conditions, like syndrome (PCOS) and hypothalamic dysfunction can disrupt the hormonal balance needed for ovulation.
● Fallopian Tube Damage; Infections, surgeries or conditions like endometriosis can block or harm the fallopian tubes preventing sperm from reaching the egg.
● Uterine or Cervical Problems; Abnormalities such as fibroids, polyps or a misshapen uterus can interfere with implantation or raise the risk of miscarriage.

In men infertility is often caused by;
● Sperm Disorders; Problems with sperm production, shape, movement or count can impede fertilization.
● Testicular Damage; Injury, infection or surgery affecting the testes can impair sperm production.
● Hormonal Imbalances; Conditions impacting the pituitary gland may disrupt hormone production for sperm generation.
Sterility typically arises from conditions such as;
● Surgical Interventions; Vasectomy in men or tubal ligation, in women are usually irreversible contraceptive methods.
● Congenital Absence; Some individuals may be born without organs that make them unable to reproduce. Medical Treatments; Some cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation may lead to lasting harm to the organs.

Diagnosing Infertility and Sterility

When it comes to diagnosing infertility and sterility the Fertility Institute of San Diego takes a personalized approach. Dr. Minoos Hosseinzadeh highlights the significance of an assessment to pinpoint the root causes of infertility or sterility.

Diagnostic Methods for Infertility;

Hormonal Testing; Evaluating hormone levels such as FSH, LH and prolactin can aid in identifying disorders.
Imaging Studies; Techniques like ultrasound and hysterosalpingography (HSG) can assess the structure and function of organs.
Semen Analysis; This test looks at sperm quantity and quality to uncover potential male related factors.
Diagnostic Methods for Sterility;
Genetic Testing; Pinpointing conditions that could lead to sterility.
Reviewing History; Understanding past procedures that might result in sterility.
Advanced Imaging; Utilizing imaging studies to spot damage to reproductive organs.


In cases infertility can be treated through various methods such as;
● Medications; Utilizing drugs like Clomiphene Citrate to induce ovulation.
● Surgical Procedures; Carrying out surgeries to address issues in reproductive organs.
● Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) like, in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI) can help with achieving pregnancy.

Sterility being more absolute might require methods such as;
● Using Donor Gametes; Opting for sperm or egg donors can assist individuals or couples in getting pregnant.
● Surrogacy; using a gestational carrier is an option for couples who wish to conceive.
● Adoption; For those facing difficulties conceiving adoption provides a path to becoming parents.

Emotional and Psychological Impact

Both infertility and sterility can deeply affect individuals emotionally and psychologically. The stress, anxiety and societal judgment linked to these conditions can impact well being and relationships. Dr. Minoos Hosseinzadeh highlights the significance of care which includes support and counseling as crucial aspects of treatment at the Fertility Institute of San Diego.

Recognizing the distinctions between infertility and sterility is vital when navigating the path to parenthood. While infertility may have treatments, sterility might require exploring alternative routes. Despite the obstacles, the Fertility Institute of San Diego under the guidance of Dr. Minoos Hosseinzadeh remains committed to delivering care customized to each person’s unique needs.

If you’re prepared to embark on your fertility journey we invite you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Hosseinzadeh for a discussion on fertility options or any other questions regarding reproductive healthcare. Simply click here.

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