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What Is Unexplained Infertility and What Are My Treatment Options?

Few things compare to the frustration of wanting to become pregnant and not being able to do so. Infertility is an incredibly complex condition, which is one of the reasons why doctors, even the very best ones, have trouble diagnosing infertility. And even with a diagnosis, it can be difficult to determine the reason behind it. 

Infertility affects 12-15% of couples trying to conceive. Contrary to popular belief, this diagnosis doesn't mean you’ll never get pregnant. To help you understand unexplained infertility, our expert team of obstetricians and gynecologists created this guide.

Here's what you need to know.

What is unexplained infertility? 

As the name implies, unexplained fertility is a diagnosis of infertility without an explanation. This diagnosis can be frustrating, but it might help to know that it’s a diagnosis of elimination. What does that mean? Your doctor has ruled out many causes of infertility after a comprehensive battery of fertility tests. Basically, you receive an unexplained fertility diagnosis if you and your partner appear normal and healthy, yet you’re still having trouble conceiving.  

Unexplained infertility vs. idiopathic infertility

Many people get unexplained infertility mixed up with idiopathic infertility. “Idiopathic” means “unexplained." But, the diagnosis of idiopathic infertility is only given to either the male or the female. It's not typically given to the couple as a whole. This means your doctor knows whether the male or female is infertile, but doesn’t know exactly why. 

For instance, if you're diagnosed with idiopathic female infertility, your doctor probably knows you aren’t ovulating normally. But your doctor may not know why you aren’t ovulating normally.

Treatment options for unexplained infertility

Obviously, it’s not easy to treat a condition rendered as unexplained. When your doctor says you and your partner have unexplained infertility, that means there’s a reason, but the reason isn’t known yet. But that doesn't mean there's no hope. Your treatment options will depend on the reason behind your infertility, once it’s determined. 

Here are a few possible explanations for unexplained infertility and treatments for them:

An undiagnosed medical condition

Sometimes, an underlying medical condition (one that isn’t related to reproductivity) can interfere with conception and pregnancy. Examples include celiac disease and diabetes, among others. 

Problems with the interaction between sperm and vaginal environment

Many things must occur between male ejaculation and implantation for you to conceive and become pregnant. Because of that, there’s a lot of time for things to go wrong. For example, if you have abnormal cervical mucus, it might attack the sperm and not allow conception. Issues like these are hard to diagnosis. 


Usually, severe endometriosis makes for a clear-cut infertility diagnosis. But mild endometriosis isn’t as easy to connect to infertility, especially if mild endometriosis doesn’t present any symptoms. 

Poor egg or sperm quality

It’s relatively easy to determine whether egg count and sperm count are healthy. It’s harder, however, to determine whether the quality of eggs and sperm are healthy. There are no tests that can accurately determine egg quality. Doctors can only determine that during IVF treatment when eggs are examined under a microscope. 

Similarly, for men, a semen analysis doesn’t always uncover poor quality sperm. Some types of poor quality sperm, like misshapen sperm (known as sperm morphology), can be diagnosed. But sperm with poor DNA, for instance, can’t be diagnosed with a basic semen analysis. 

Problems with embryo development

This seems like an issue that would garner a clear diagnosis, but it’s actually difficult to tell where embryo development goes wrong. Problems with embryo development are often discovered during IVF treatment, as embryos are monitored for normal cell growth and division. 

Do you want to learn more about unexplained infertility? Visit Women's Health Care Center, PLLC. We’ll help you understand your diagnosis and provide you with the necessary treatment to grow your family. Contact us here to book an appointment online.

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