Fertility is the ability to bear children. Most women wish to restrict when and by whom they conceive. In the U.S., 94% of women age 15-44 use some method of birth control in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Ideally, the use of birth control is the responsibility of both sexual partners. The choice of a birth control method should be a joint decision. In reality, the ultimate responsibility for birth control more often than not rests with the woman. Her choices include oral contraceptives, spermicides, diaphragms, cervical caps, rhythm methods, contraceptive implants, and intrauterine devices (IUDs). In general, longer-term protection (for example, oral contraceptives, implants, or IUDs) not requiring last minute decision-making provides better protection (a 0.1-3% “failure rate”) than methods (for example, condoms or spermicides) used just before intercourse (5%-15% “failure rate”).
Every woman who wishes to use birth control needs to decide which method is best suited for her. She must also determine which methods offer her the most protection against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection and AIDS.
The opposite of fertility is, of course, infertility or the inability to bear children. Infertility affects one in five couples in the U.S. Female infertility tends to become more of a problem as a woman ages, especially after age 35. Regardless of age, a woman and her partner need to be medically evaluated by an infertility specialist to determine the cause for the infertility and, if possible, to correct the problem. The options currently available to infertile couples have been expanded. These include the advanced reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), or utilization of donor eggs and/or sperm. Adoption, as always, is another option for childless couples.