Infertility is a disease or condition of the reproductive system that is often diagnosed after a couple has had one year of unprotected, well-timed intercourse, or if the woman has suffered from multiple miscarriages and the woman is under 35 years of age. If the woman is over 35 years old, it is diagnosed (or should be!) after 6 months of unprotected, well-timed intercourse.
This is not just a one sided problem. Approximately, 30% of infertility is due to a female factor and 30% is due to a male factor. In the balance of the cases, infertility also can result from problems in both partners and often the outlying cause of the infertility cannot be explained. In this case it is known as an “unexplained infertility” diagnosis. All of which, equally frustrating.
There may be a number of external factors, lifestyle choices and environmental causes that can attribute to an infertility diagnosis. Some risk factors can be gender specific. Here’s a brief snapshot on some of the more common risks factors.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
- Tubal Disease
- DES Exposure
Short answer: not often. Longer answer: Listen to your body. By getting regular checkups and communicating what you do know, will help to detect any possible clues to potential fertility issues. Early detection and treatment of a problem are often critical in achieving successful pregnancy outcomes later.
There are many options for treating infertility, however deciding on which one is best for you and your partner can feel a bit overwhelming at first. Start with learning about all of the options that are available to you. With advancing medical technology there are more choices for both men and women trying to conceive. It can be a broad spectrum of hormonal treatments, ovulation induction and Intrauterine insemination to more advanced technologies like in vitro fertilization, ICSI to surrogacy, egg/sperm donation and even embryo donation. If you are craving more information about your options check out family building options here.
There’s quite a wide variety of medications that can be used to treat infertility. First, it is important to talk to your provider about a course of care plan. Also, you can gain a better understanding of the medications and what their purpose is, by asking your physician to explain all of the medications that will be used in your specific treatment plan. Here’s where you can learn more about Fertility Medications.
Artificial insemination is more commonly referred to as an IUI (intrauterine insemination). Typically, this procedure is recommended for couples with unexplained infertility, minimal male factor infertility, and women with cervical mucus problems. The process uses the male partner or donor’s sperm, washing and treating the sperm, and then injecting it into the woman during the time of ovulation. Think of as putting the sperm in a taxi cab and delivering it right to the door of where it needs to be! Read more about IUI.
In vitro fertilization or for acronym-y purposes, IVF, gets its name from the fact that fertilization occurs outside of the woman’s body, in a lab dish instead of a woman’s fallopian tubes. Typically, a woman will use ovulation stimulating drugs to produce an excess number of eggs. These eggs or “follicles”, are surgically removed from the woman and fertilized in dish with sperm. If fertilization takes place, the physician transfers the embryo(s) into the women’s uterus. Learn more about the IVF process.
Here’s the real talk, in many cases difficulty in becoming pregnant can be resolved by a gynecologist without a referral to a specialist. Often the problem comes down to sometime tricky timing of intercourse with ovulation, which may be resolved by using one of the over-the-counter urine ovulation predictor tests. Your OB/GYN can also conduct a basic infertility evaluation. If a problem is found during your evaluation and for more complex fertility issues, it is advised to see a specialist.
Be prepared before your appointment. You have a consult and their attention, make it count. This resource may help: “Make a note of your Questions to be Asked ” which lists a number of important questions to ask your physician during your appointment.