What is Unexplained Infertility?

Unexplained infertility is when standard infertility testing has not found a cause for a couple’s or a woman’s inability to get pregnant. Some reproductive physicians hold that a diagnosis of unexplained infertility is a non-diagnosis. By definition, the causes of unexplained infertility are unknown. It’s possible that a person or couple who are fertile may be diagnosed as having unexplained infertility because they have not been successful in reproduction after one year.

Similarly, some fertility physicians think that a likely cause of unexplained infertility is that the tests performed to assess infertility in the first place may have missed subtle defects due to imperfect testing methods.

Estimates indicate that anywhere from 15-30 percent of couples experiencing infertility are diagnosed as having unexplained infertility. This makes it one of the greatest causes of infertility.

The variation in estimated percentage of unexplained infertility is due to the fact that experts do not agree on what should constitute “standard infertility testing.” Testing can vary according to the individual’s situation and their physician’s testing protocols.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s guidelines for standard infertility testing call for:

  • Ovulation assessment
  • Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) that evaluates the condition of the uterus and Fallopian tubes
  • Seman analysis
  • Ovarian reserve evaluation
  • In some cases, diagnostic laparoscopy, a minimally invasive surgical technique that allows a physician to view internal organs and conditions via a tiny camera
  • These may be performed in addition to a physical exam and review of medical and sexual history.

Both partners may have unexplained fertility problems. Unexplained infertility can be frustrating because affected people know they have a problem but not what is causing it. As with some conditions causing infertility, unexplained infertility may correct itself over time.