Differences between infertility and sterility

IVF gender selection

Differences between infertility and sterility

Confusing the concept of infertility for that of sterility is more common than you’d think, which leads people to use both terms interchangeably, mistaking them for synonyms. Couples that are unable to conceive are not defined by the same term as those that are unable to successfully carry a pregnancy to term, and it is important to be able to correctly differentiate them.

We must also keep in mind that the difference is not only limited to the concept, but the causes and treatment applied to both cases are completely different, which is why organizations such as Assisted Reproduction Clinics and laboratories such as PGDLabs have the responsibility of informing people about the differences between both terms.


When speaking of infertility we are referring to the inability of a couple to successfully carry a pregnancy to term. In other words, there is a gestation process that does not reach full term, which is why a healthy baby cannot be born. The woman might successfully get pregnant on different occasions but have a miscarriage, especially during the first three months of gestation.

There is a primary and a secondary infertility:

  • Primary. Here we refer to pregnancies that do not successfully reach full term, without ever having given birth to any child.
  • Secondary. After a successful pregnancy and having given birth to a baby, miscarriages occur.


Sterility refers to the inability to naturally conceive a pregnancy. It may happen to the man or the woman, or to both at the same time. It may be caused due to different reasons, both internal and external.

There is a primary and a secondary sterility:

  • Primary. In this state, the couple has never been able to achieve a pregnancy.
  • Secondary. After a successful pregnancy, the couple is unable to achieve a second pregnancy.

In both cases, a process involving studies is started right away, performing several tests to learn the cause of the infertility or sterility. These tests evaluate the health and state of the Fallopian Tubes, the uterus and its surroundings for the woman; and sperm production, mobility and size & shape of the spermatozoids for the man. Genetic studies, such as karyotyping, are also recommended for both members of the couple.

While some scientific associations point out that a couple may take up to two years to achieve a pregnancy after having intercourse without contraceptives, adequate testing is recommended after one year to find out whether the couple is sterile.

At the PGDLabs genetic laboratory, we actively collaborate with reproductive medicine clinics from around the world, having offered our work non-stop in Kuwait since the year 2014. We support renowned Assisted Reproduction Clinics in the genetic diagnosis of infertility and sterility, and the improvement of pregnancy rates among couples with fertility problems through a Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis or a genetic study of the embryos.

If you have any questions about assisted reproduction treatments, please contact us – no strings attached.