Having trouble getting pregnant? There are options!
Infertility can be heartbreaking, but it isn’t a sentence to a childless life. There are numerous causes and treatments to explore to discover how best to proceed with creating a family; but first it’s important to know what, exactly, infertility is.
Infertility can be divided into two different meanings:
- An inability to conceive after having regular unprotected sex (6 months to 1 year)
- An inability to carry a pregnancy to full term (40 weeks)
Infertility can be due to the mother, father, or a combination of the parents’ genes and conditions, and affects about 10% of all couples within the United States. According to The Mayo Clinic, USA, these statistics can be divided up in this way: 20% of all infertility cases are due to the man, 40-50% due to the woman, and 30-40% is due to a combination of both. While these statistics can seem devastating, it’s important to remember that infertility is not as irreversible as sterility, and that there are treatments.
Infertility is like other medical conditions, and can be affected by certain risk factors. Although these factors may not individually affect or determine infertility, they can play a significant role:
- Age: Due to a change in hormonal levels, a woman’s fertility begins to drop between 30-35 years of age; for men, the change in fertility occurs after 40 years of age. Men and women outside of that range may also experience problems getting pregnant; this is only meant to serve as a guide to hormonal levels.
- Smoking: Smoking dramatically increases the risk of infertility in both men and women, and continued smoking may be detrimental to fertility treatments. During pregnancy, smoking will increase the chances of miscarriage as well.
- Alcohol: Moderate alcohol consumption may not affect fertility, although it may in men and women who have lower fertility rates. Alcohol abuse may affect male fertility, and alcohol consumption during pregnancy may end in miscarriage.
- Weight: Men and women affected by obesity may also experience problems with fertility, as sedentary lifestyles prove to play a large role in infertility for women. Women who are underweight due to eating disorders may also experience infertility issues, as well as vegans who are not getting a proper intake of iron, folic acid, zinc, and vitamin B-12.
- Exercise: Exercise is important to living a healthy lifestyle, but don’t get too extreme. Over-exercising (more than seven hours per week) may affect a woman’s ovulation, and a sedentary lifestyle could be detrimental to men and women.
- Exposure: Certain sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) can negatively affect the reproductive system. For example, chlamydia can damage a woman’s fallopian tubes, as well as causing a man’s scrotum to become inflamed. Some pesticides, herbicides, metals, and solvents have also been linked to fertility problems in both men and women.
- Stress Levels: High levels of mental stress can also affect fertility in both men and women. In addition to affecting the frequency of sexual intercourse as well as the chance of ejaculation.
While a variety of things can put you at a higher risk for infertility, it doesn’t necessarily cause infertility. Causes of infertility can range from damaged DNA strands to ovulation disorders, and, in some cases, remain unknown. Generally, if you have gone for six to twelve months of unprotected intercourse and still are not pregnant, you should talk to your doctor regarding infertility tests.
For men, infertility tests can be done through an analysis of the semen and/or blood, a general physical exam, an ultrasound, or even a test for certain STIs. For women, infertility tests can include blood tests, ovarian reserve and genetic testing, pelvic ultrasounds, uterine x-rays, laparoscopy, as well as tests for STIs.
Regardless of the cause, infertility can be treated in a variety of ways. Multiple treatment options may be attempted to discover the best treatment option for your infertility, although some causes of infertility may not be able to be treated. It’s important to remember that even if treatment is not an option, as in some cases, the woman may still conceive. Some viable options include:
- Increased Frequency in Intercourse: That’s right: your doctor may determine that it’s simply a case of not enough. Sex two to three times per week is often recommended, as sperm can survive inside the uterus for up to 72 hours, and an egg can be fertilized up to 24 hours following ovulation.
- Medications: Certain conditions in men and women, once diagnosed, can be treated with medication. Erectile dysfunction in men and ovulation disorders in women are prime examples of these kinds of conditions.
- Surgery: Sometimes, you just need a little help. There are a variety of surgical procedures, ranging from in-vitro fertilization to corrective surgery for an epididymal blockage, can be just the answer you’ve been looking for. It’s important to understand both the cause and the risks of the surgery before consent.
Infertility treatments may lead to a few complications. The most common of these complications are below, although it’s important to talk to your doctor to discuss the risks before you choose a treatment option:
- Multiple Pregnancies: Often, assisted conception can produce multiple fetuses—leading to twins, triplets, or even more multiples in one pregnancy. In extreme cases, multifetal pregnancy reduction is possible, where one or more of the multiple fetuses are removed to create a healthier environment for the other fetuses.
- Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS): This occurs when the ovaries become very swollen and leak excess fluid into the body. Symptoms can range from bloating and constipation to pain in the abdomen, vomiting, and nausea. Most cases are mild and require easy treatment; extreme rare cases may lead to surgery to remove developed blood clots.
- Ectopic Pregnancy: This condition occurs when the fertilized egg does not implant in the womb, but instead in the fallopian tubes. Typically, this may end in miscarriage. An ultrasound can detect ectopic pregnancy, and can be treated through a minor surgical procedure.
A diagnosis of infertility is not a sentence to a childless life. By being proactive and meeting with your doctor to exhaust tests and treatment options can be the key to a new happy, healthy, life with children. Contact us for a consultation regarding the best method of action for you!