Subfertility – What is it and How is it Different From Infertility

5 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari


If you’re trying to conceive but facing problems, you might have Subfertility issues. In women, subfertility happens for several reasons, such as uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and thyroid. As you age, Subfertility increases, and you may experience delayed pregnancy.

Subfertility is a cause of concern for couples trying to conceive. The conceiving process may take longer than average, but there are still chances of getting pregnant. If you’ve doubts, here is the complete information about Subfertility causes, symptoms, and treatment options. pregnancy pillow

In This Article

What is Subfertility?

Subfertility refers to the difficulty in conceiving naturally. Couples trying to conceive but don’t succeed are likely to be subfertile. A woman is considered subfertile if she produces eggs after a periodic interval. In some cases, a woman getting pregnant but unable to carry a baby is also considered subfertile. Subfertility also refers to an inability to conceive or a reduction in infertility after a long period of unintended failure to conceive.

How is Subfertility Different from Infertility?

How is subfertility different from infertility

Sometimes infertility and subfertility are often used interchangeably, which is not correct. Infertility refers to the complete inability to conceive. In the case of infertility, one partner has some problem, and the couple cannot get pregnant naturally. On the other hand, subfertility is a medical condition where women or men have some issues, such as tubal disease and sperm deficiency, so their pregnancy is delayed.

Top Causes of Subfertility

Subfertility in women can happen due to various factors, such as:

1. Ovulation Problems

In this condition, the egg doesn’t release from the ovary during the menstrual cycle. This may happen due to polycystic ovary syndrome, thyroid disorders, and premature ovarian failure.

2. Prior Surgery

Sometimes prior surgery of the reproductive tract may damage the fallopian tube and uterus, which results in subfertility.

3. Cervical Mucus Problems

The thick mucus around the uterus cervix can cause Subfertility. Due to thick mucus, sperms are unable to reach the egg.

4. Endometriosis

This is a common condition where the endometrial wall is present outside the lining of the uterus. This may damage the fallopian tubes and ovaries resulting in difficult conceiving.

[Read : Can You Get Pregnant With Endometriosis?]

5. Fibroids

Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors present inside the uterus and fallopian tube. They can block the fallopian tube and prevent sperm and egg from fertilizing, leading to Subfertility.

6. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

This refers to the fallopian tube, uterus, and ovaries infection. The scarring inside the uterus or fallopian tube prevents sperm from meeting.

7. Medications

Anti-inflammatory drugs, chemotherapy, spironolactone, and mental health disorder medications can lead to subfertility. Some medications can interfere with ovulation, egg production, egg release, fertilization in the long term.

Symptoms of Subfertility


Some common symptoms and signs of Subfertility are as follows:

1. Irregular Periods

The menstrual cycle of women is 28 days. If you are experiencing a menstrual delay or irregularity in menstruation, this could be a sign. Sometimes menstrual irregularity also occurs due to polycystic ovarian syndrome and hormonal issues. Both these factors also lead to subfertility and infertility.

[Read : How to Improve Chances of Pregnancy With Irregular Periods?]

2. Hormonal Imbalance

Hormonal fluctuation is one of the common reasons for subfertility. If you’re facing hormonal fluctuation and noticing these signs, consult with doctors, as it can be a sign of Subfertility.

  • Reduced sex drive
  • Skin issues
  • Thinning hair
  • Facial hair growth
  • Weight gain

[Read : How to Treat Hormonal Imbalance to Get Pregnant]

3. Pain During Sexual Intercourse

Some women believe painful sex is common since they have had it their whole lives. Yet it isn’t. It might be connected to endometriosis, hormonal problems, or other underlying diseases causing Subfertility.

4. Missing Periods

Women occasionally experience a bad month, which is common. Your menstruation may briefly stop due to stress or strenuous exercise. But if you’ve had menstruation in months, it’s important to have your fertility evaluated.

Diagnosing Subfertility

The fertility specialists help in diagnosing subfertility. They start with a physical examination that includes a pelvic exam and a genital area examination. For surety, they order several clinical tests to know if women experience Subfertility.

  • Blood test to monitor hormones level
  • Transvaginal ultrasound for diagnosing reproductive organ
  • Hysterosalpingography uses to evaluate the uterus and fallopian tubes condition
  • Ovarian reserve testing to track the quantity and quality of eggs.

Treatment Options For Subfertility

Subfertility doesn’t mean you cannot conceive for your whole life. Thankfully, many treatment options are available to improve your conceiving odds. Some of the treatment options are as follows:

1. Medications

Treatment with medications depends on the reason behind subfertility. However, doctors may suggest some drugs, such as clomiphene, tamoxifen, letrozole, metformin, cabergoline, and bromocriptine. But keep in mind; never take these medications without consultation with a doctor.

2. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ARTs)

This is one of the common fertility treatments suggested to couples facing problems in conceiving. Some of the common ART techniques are:

a. In-Vitro Fertilization and Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection

Techniques where sperm is injected into the uterus to meet the egg.

b. Assisted Hatching

A technique that assists embryo implantation by opening the growing embryo’s outer layer.

c. Donor Conception

Eggs or sperm from other couples can make a couple fertile.

3. Lifestyle Changes

In addition to the medical treatments and procedures, subfertile women should adopt some lifestyle changes such as

  • Stopping alcohol consumption
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Cutting down caffeine
  • Avoiding excessive heat
  • Charting basal body temperature
  • Track the ovulation cycle to determine the best time for intercourse.

[Read : Your Comprehensive Guide to an IVF Treatment]

Risk Factors Associated With Subfertility

Some of the risk factors associated with subfertility include

  1. Being overweight and underweight
  2. Smoking, marijuana, and tobacco
  3. Excessive alcohol use
  4. Excessive emotional stress and physical stress
  5. Certain medications
  6. Exposure to radiations
  7. Constant exposure to harmful toxins such as pesticides and lead

When to Consult the Doctor?

When to consult doctor

Several circumstances decide when you should visit a fertility specialist. Testing for subfertility is exhausting, expensive, and emotionally draining. However, you should consult a fertility specialist if you experience these things – 

  • Not getting pregnant, even after frequent intercourse, is a cause of concern. If you’re facing this problem, consult a specialist’s doctor to diagnose the root cause.
  • The fertility rate declines once women get over 35. Therefore, you should consult a doctor if you are trying to conceive.
  • Couples not being able to conceive even after artificial insemination should talk to the doctor to decide on the next course of action.

Subfertility is a condition where a woman cannot conceive naturally due to some medical conditions. However, there are still chances to get pregnant if they follow the above-listed treatment option and track the underlying causes of Subfertility. Consult a certified fertility specialist in case of doubt and get appropriate treatment to conceive.


1. What is the Duration of Subfertility?

There is no particular set time for ending subfertility. The duration of subfertility may last for months and even years, depending on the cause of Subfertility.

2. What is Secondary Subfertility?

Secondary fertility refers to the condition when a couple conceives once in life, but in the second attempt, they cannot conceive.

3. Can Stress Cause Subfertility?

Yes, stress can cause infertility and Subfertility in a woman. Psychological stress can result in hormonal fluctuation, contributing to subfertility.

Read Also: Blocked Fallopian Tubes – Types, Causes And Treatments

Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

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