By Cristina Mestre Ferrer BSc, MSc (embryologist).
Last Update: 07/24/2014

Before going over the topic of this post, it is convenient to start with the definition of sterility. Although sterility and infertility are commonly taken are synonyms referring to fertility problems, they are actually different terms and each one of them addresses dissimilar conditions.

Sterility is defined as the inability to getting pregnant. A couple cannot make the sperm to fertilise the egg, and if they do it and an embryo is formed, it is not able to implant into the uterine wall. Thus, pregnancy is not achieved.

Inability to getting pregnant

Infertility, on the other hand, refers to a different situation: pregnancy is achieved (postive pregnancy test), but the baby does not reach full term. Gestation is interrumpted spontaneously at any point of the process.

Therefore, primary sterility means pregnancy has never been achieved. A couple has gestation problems and has not had children, hence the term “primary”.


Primary sterility cannot be pronounced just because pregnancy has not been achieved at a given time, attempt or series of attempts. It should always be diagnosed by a physician.

When a couple whishes to have offspring and ceases the use of contraceptives, they have to try for at least one year before visiting an assisted reproduction centre.

The first visit will include a joint interview to verify the time they have been trying to get pregnant, if they have children, either of them or from a previous partner. After these questions a female fertility study is performed, whereas male’s fertility is performed through a seminogram.

Dealing with sterility

Once the mandatory tests are performed, the case is studied in full detail to prescribe (if necessary) the assisted reproduction treatment that suits the needs and characteristics of the couple.

Facing sterility

Facing a sterility diagnosis is a bitter pill to swallow, but it should be noted that it does not mean they cannot have children, it just means taht their road will be bumpier than other’s.

If one of the partners has fertility problems, he/she should not feel responsible. Reproductive potential is very important in fertility, it is necessary bot potentials to team up in order to achieve pregnancy.

Staying toghether and expressing their feelings of anger or frustration is key to overcome fertility problems. It is also important to be patient and not to rush things, as every person has a particular way of dealing with them, and every person also has its own timing. Also, and maybe most importantly, they have to bear in mind that this is a long and demanding way to go, although it is worth the reward.

Authors and contributors

 Cristina Mestre Ferrer
BSc, MSc
Bachelor's Degree in Biological Sciences, Genetics & Human Reproduction from the University of Valencia (UV). Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the UV and the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Embryologist at IVI Barcelona. More information