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Fertility is the natural capability to give life. In humans and animals, fertility means that the parent can produce babies.

More precisely, fertility is the capacity of an individual or population to produce viable offspring.[1] By 'viable' is meant 'able to live and reproduce'.

In agriculture fertility means that a soil can support the growth of plants because it contains the right minerals and nutrients.

Fertility can also be used as a metaphor: having a "fertile imagination" means being able to think of many new and interesting things.

As a measure, fertility rate is the number of children born per couple, person or population. This is different to fecundity. This is defined the potential for reproduction (influenced by gamete production, fertilisation and carrying a pregnancy to term). In the English language, the term was originally applied only to females, but increasingly is applied to males as well, as common understanding of reproductive mechanisms increases and the importance of the male role is better known. Infertility is a deficient fertility.

Human fertility depends on factors of nutrition, sexual behavior, culture, instinct, endocrinology, timing, economics, way of life, and emotions. Animal fertility is no less complex, and may display astounding mechanisms.

Human fertility

Female Fertility

In the United States the average age of menarche (first period) is about 12.5 years.,[2] However, in most girls, menarche does not signal that ovulation has occurred. In postmenarchal girls, about 80% of the cycles are anovulatory in the first year after menarche, 50% in the third and 10% in the sixth year.[3] Women's fertility peaks between ages 22–26, and after 35 it starts to sharply decline.

According to Henri Leridon, PhD, an epidemiologist with the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, of women trying to get pregnant, without using fertility drugs or in vitro fertilization:

  • At age 30
    • 75% will have a conception ending in a live birth within one year
    • 91% will have a conception ending in a live birth within four years.
  • At age 35
    • 66% will have a conception ending in a live birth within one year
    • 84% will have a conception ending in a live birth within four years.
  • At age 40
    • 44% will have a conception ending in a live birth within one year
    • 64% will have a conception ending in a live birth within four years.[4][5]

The use of fertility drugs and/or in vitro fertilization can increase the chances of becoming pregnant at a later age.[6]

Male Fertility

There is evidence that males reproduction abilities are reduced with higher age.[7]

count is becoming smaller with age, with men aged 50–80 years producing 75% of  compared with 20–50 years old males.

If the count is to low, man can increase it with herbal and chemical supplements.[8] Even larger change can be seen in number of seminiferous tubules produced by males on different age stages:

  • In males 20–39 years old, 90% of the seminiferous tubules contain mature .
  • In males 40–69 years old, 50% of the seminiferous tubules contain mature .
  • In males 80 years old and older, 10% of the seminiferous tubules contain mature .[9]


Infertility is a state where at least one of the partners cannot have children. Infertility can be also refereed to women unable to carry children for full pregnancy period due to health related issues. there are many causes of infertility - many of them can be treated.[10]


  1. King R.C. et al. 2006. A dictionary of genetics. 7th ed, Oxford University Press. p234
  2. Anderson SE, Dallal GE, Must A (April 2003). "Relative weight and race influence average age at menarche: results from two nationally representative surveys of US girls studied 25 years apart". Pediatrics 111 (4 Pt 1): 844–50. doi:10.1542/peds.111.4.844 . PMID 12671122 . 
  3. Apter D (February 1980). "Serum steroids and pituitary hormones in female puberty: a partly longitudinal study". Clinical Endocrinology 12 (2): 107–20. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2265.1980.tb02125.x . PMID 6249519 . 
  6. "Spanish woman ' is oldest mother'". BBC News. Retrieved 2006-12-30. 
  7. Kidd SA, Eskenazi B, Wyrobek AJ (February 2001). "Effects of male age on semen quality and fertility: a review of the literature". Fertil. Steril. 75 (2): 237–48. doi:10.1016/S0015-0282(00)01679-4 . PMID 11172821 . 
  8. Male fertility supplement website
  9. Effect of Age on Male Fertility Seminars in Reproductive Endocrinology. Volume, Number 3, August 1991. Sherman J. Silber, M.D.
  10. Makar RS, Toth TL (2002). "The evaluation of infertility". Am J Clin Pathol. 117 Suppl: S95–103. PMID 14569805 . 

Further reading

  • Bock, J. (2002). Evolutionary Theory and the search for a unified theory of fertility. American Journal of Human Biology. 14(2) 145–148. Full text