April is Fertility Awareness Month.
Let’s Talk Infertility
Infertility. It can be a scary thought, right? Especially when you want nothing more than to conceive with ease. Take a deep breath though because infertility might not necessarily mean exactly what you think it means. In fact, there’s a whole host of misconceptions floating around out there on the good ol’ world wide web that would be enough to make any couple want to give up before they’ve even started. Since that’s the last thing I want for you, I’ve decided to explain a few things about infertility in a general sense so that you can take it on head first, armed with knowledge.
What is infertility?
Infertility is generally defined as the inability for a woman to become pregnant after at least a year of trying to get pregnant. Infertility can also include women who have conceived successfully but have miscarried more than once. If this is you, don’t panic. Between 2006 and 2010 12% of married women aged between 15 and 44 struggled with infertility. (2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, CDC)
Does infertility happen only in women?
No. In fact, failure to conceive is a fairly even split between infertility in women and infertility in men. In about 33% of cases, infertility is in women, 33% is in men, and the remaining 33% is caused by either unknown circumstances or a combination of issues shared between male and female partners.
What are some causes of infertility in women?
There are a number of different factors that can play into increasing a woman’s risk for infertility or causing it outright. Some of the most common causes are:
- Early Menopause (Primary ovarian insufficiency) – This occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop working resulting in menstrual cycles stopping before the age of 40.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – While PID isn’t the direct cause of infertility, it can increase risk if the fallopian tubes become blocked or damaged as a result of the infection.
- Abnormalities in reproductive organs – Abnormalities can include, but are not limited to, polyps or noncancerous tumors in the uterus or in the uterine wall. Even an abnormal shape of the cervical opening or of the uterus itself can cause infertility.
- Hormonal disorders – These disorders are caused by an imbalance of the hormones that our bodies naturally produce. When these imbalances occur, they can cause things like polycystic ovary syndrome, which can negatively impact the menstrual cycle, among many other serious issues.
How long should we try before asking your doctor for help?
If you’re under the age of 30, there’s no need to worry if it takes a little time to get pregnant. However, if you’ve been trying for a year or more with no success, it’s probably time to speak with your doctor. As women age their chances of getting pregnant decrease quite rapidly. This is why women over the age of 30 who have been trying to get pregnant for 6 months or more should contact their physician.
How will my doctor know if my partner or I are infertile?
Initially, your doctor will attempt to rule out many common issues by asking a series of questions and completing physical exams. If there’s nothing obvious like irregular menstrual cycles, something in your medical history, or ill-timed intercourse, your doctor will want to run tests. It’s important to know that this process can sometimes take months so be patient and don’t get discouraged.
How is infertility treated?
Remember that part about not getting discouraged? Well here’s why: There are multiple different treatments and approaches that can be taken to combat infertility. Depending on your specific diagnosis, your doctor can decide the best course of action or combination of treatments for you and your body. Some treatment options include, but are not limited to:
- Medicine – Certain reproductive issues can be managed by simply taking certain medications.
- Hormone Therapy – This is primarily used in cases where there’s a hormone imbalance causing infertility issues.
- Surgery – While, most doctors like to try other options first, sometimes it becomes necessary to perform surgery to correct certain abnormalities.
- Artificial insemination – This is an approach commonly used in cases where either the female suffers from endometriosis or when the male suffers from low sperm count. It’s performed by a doctor who deposits sperm directly into a woman’s uterus, cervix or fallopian tubes.
- Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) – There are several different forms of ART that include some combination of removing a woman’s eggs so that they can be fertilized outside of the body and then returning them back to the body once they become embryos.
Even if you and your partner have struggled to get pregnant, by no means does that mean you should throw it the towel. Work with your doctor to pinpoint your specific issues so you and your partner can work towards a solution and a happy, successful pregnancy together.
Did you find this article helpful? If so, let me know in the comments. Please also Like and Share with someone who you think could benefit from this information. For more articles like these, you can visit my blog here. Thanks for stopping by. Come again soon!