When you begin trying to get pregnant, it can be disappointing not to have any success. Before running off to your fertility doctor in a panic, consider some of the factors that might be at play. Instead of flooding your doctor with a barrage of questions, take the time to educate yourself on the basics of infertility. It could save you some anxiety and help you keep a level head. These are just a few of the most frequently asked questions regarding infertility.
What is Infertility?
The World Health Organization defines infertility as “the inability of a sexually active, non-contracepting couple to achieve pregnancy in one year.”
Is It Common?
Many couples struggling with infertility seem to think they’re alone in their struggle when in fact, more than 6.1 million couples in the United States are affected by infertility. Of those couples, 20% of them will eventually get pregnant without needing any treatment, so don’t lose hope just yet!
How Long Should We Wait to Be Checked by a Doctor?
A few failed attempts to get pregnant does not mean you are an infertile couple. For women under the age of 35 and in good health who have tried for a year to get pregnant with no success, it’s time to visit a fertility doctor. Women over 35 should try for at least six months before visiting your healthcare professional. For women over 40, it’s best to consult with your doctor soon after you start trying to become pregnant.
Is It Permanent?
In many cases, infertility is not a permanent condition. There are many reasons why you might not be getting pregnant and certain treatments and medications could be the fix. However, some couples are actually sterile rather than infertile, which is a permanent condition and unfortunately there is no cure.
Are Only Women Affected?
Both men and women can be infertile. About nine percent of men and 11% of women of reproductive age have experienced fertility problems. Infertility can affect both parties for a number of different reasons.
What Causes Male Infertility?
Male infertility most commonly stems from having trouble producing sperm, or an abnormal shape of the sperm that prevents it from reaching and fertilizing the egg. Other issues could include varicocele, which is a swelling of the veins that drain the testicle, infections, undescended testicles, and hormone imbalances. Fertility could also be affected by certain lifestyle choices like smoking, weight gain/loss, and alcohol use.
What Treatments Can Help with Infertility?
While some fertility problems are easily fixed, others require more treatment. Depending on the problem, a woman’s fertility could be restored with medications such as clomiphene, which stimulates the ovaries’ production of eggs, or metformin, which treats polycystic ovary syndrome. In cases where the cause is unclear, hormone injections or artificial insemination could be the fix. For males, in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection, the process of injecting one sperm into an egg and implanting it into the uterus, are the most common fixes.
What Increases a Woman’s Risk of Infertility?
Age is a big determining factor in both men and women. After age 35, a woman’s chance of getting pregnant decreases significantly. Too much or too little body fat could interfere with the ovulation cycle, making it difficult to conceive. Hormonal imbalances and chronic diseases like diabetes, lupus, arthritis, and hypertension can also create problems when trying to conceive.
What Tests Are Run to Find Out If You’re Infertile?
Many of the tests are simple and not painful. They include testicular examinations, pap smears, and pelvic examinations. These are usually performed first, along with blood and urine and semen tests. When all other tests have been exhausted, testicle biopsy and genetic testing can be employed.
Don’t arrive to your doctor’s appointment unprepared. Having a basic understanding of fertility and what factors might be affecting your inability to conceive can make the process go more smoothly.
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