Fertility is the ability to reproduce. Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after one year or more of having unprotected sex. To become pregnant is a many step process, because this is a many step process the cause of infertility may be a result of a problem in any one or many of these steps.
Infertility is quite common, according to the CDC about 6% of married women aged 15-44 years in the U.S. are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying and about 12% of women aged 15-44 years in the U.S. have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term regardless of marital status. But infertility is not just a woman’s problem, men and women can contribute to infertility. Many couples struggle with infertility and it has been found that about 35% of couples with infertility have both a male factor and a female factor identified with infertility.
Your fertility is influenced by your lifestyle. Here are some of the top lifestyle tips to help improve your fertility:
A woman needs functioning ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus to get pregnant. Conditions that affect any of these organs could contribute to infertility in women. Some of the most common conditions will be discussed in greater detail below.
Disruptions in ovarian function can be caused by many different conditions. Typical dysfunction of the ovaries has to do with ovulation, when a woman doesn’t ovulate during a menstrual cycle it is called anovulation. Ovulation must happen for a woman to become pregnant. Possible causes of anovulation include:
Women could have an increased risk of fallopian tube obstruction if they have a history of any of the following: pelvic infection, ruptured appendicitis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, endometriosis, or abdominal surgery. Fallopian tube evaluation can be performed using an x-ray called a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) or by chromopertubation (CP). A hysterosalpingogram is an x-ray of the uterus and fallopian tubes. A radiologist injects dye into the uterus through the cervix, the radiologist takes x-ray pictures during this time to see if the dye moves unobstructedly through the fallopian tubes. A chromopertubation is done in an operating room during a laparoscopy. Dye is passed through the cervix and into the uterus and spillage and the shape of the fallopian tubes are evaluated.
If there is concern for abnormalities of the uterus evaluation by transvaginal ultrasound can be done to look for fibroids or other abnormalities. A sonohysterogram or hysteroscopy could be performed to further evaluate the uterus if necessary.
Infertility in men can be caused by a number of factors and can usually be evaluated by a semen analysis. A semen analysis tests for the number of sperm, motility, and shape of sperm. A slightly abnormal semen analysis does not necessarily mean a man is infertile, it simply helps determine if and how the male factors contribute to infertility. Some common causes of infertility in men include:
These are caused by irregular function of the hypothalamus or pituitary glands. These glands in the brain produce hormones that support normal testicular function. If there is too much prolactin made by the pituitary gland or other conditions that could damage the hypothalamus or pituitary gland it could cause reduced or no sperm production. These conditions could include:
Certain genetic conditions could cause no sperm to be produced or low numbers of sperm production. These conditions could include:
Typically experts recommend waiting to seek help after at least one year of trying unsuccessfully for women age 35 and younger and for women age 35 or older after 6 months of trying unsuccessfully. A woman’s chance of having a baby rapidly declines after the age of 30. Couples who are trying to get pregnant with the following signs should see their health care provider if:
Even if you are not having fertility issues it is a good idea for couples to see a health care provider before trying to get pregnant. They can help you get your body ready for a healthy baby and answer any questions on fertility and provide any tips on conceiving.
Your doctor will start by obtaining a thorough medical and sexual history from both partners. Your doctor will evaluate this information and determine if there are any conditions or history that could lead to infertility. If no cause can be determined from the provided information your doctor will recommend testing. For women, testing could include ovaria reserve testing, x-ray of the fallopian tubes and uterus, and laparoscopy. For men, testing is focused on semen analysis.
Treatment for infertility could include medicine, surgery, intrauterine insemination, or assisted reproductive technology like IVF. A doctor will make specific treatment recommendations taking a number of factors into account:
Treating infertility with medication is very common, medicines used to treat infertility in women could include:
Many of these fertility medications increase a woman’s chance of having twins, triplets, or other multiples. If a woman is pregnant with multiple fetuses it may cause more issues during pregnancy and an increased risk of being born too early.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
IUI is a treatment that is commonly called artificial insemination. IUI is a procedure where specially prepared sperm are inserted into the woman’s uterus. IUI is commonly used alongside medication use in the woman that stimulates ovulation prior to the IUI. IUI is typically used to treat a mild male factor causing infertility or used for couples with unexplained infertility.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
ART treatments include all fertility treatments where both eggs and embryos are handled outside of the body. These procedures typically involve removing mature eggs from a woman’s ovaries using a needle, combining the eggs with sperm in the laboratory, and returning the created embryos to the woman’s body. The most common type of ART is in vitro fertilization (IVF)
ART procedures can involve the use of donor eggs, donor sperm, or previously frozen embryos. Donor eggs are used for women who can not produce eggs naturally. Donor eggs and donor sperm are commonly used when a man or woman has a genetic condition that could be passed on to the baby.
The following companies provide various help with fertility like sperm testing, women’s healthcare, hormone testing, or help with fertility costs.
Whether you are thinking of starting a family or you have been trying for a while it never hurts to speak with a health care professional to discuss ways to boost your fertility or options to treat your infertility. When you are trying to build a family and it’s not happening as quickly as you expected it can put stress on a relationship and be disheartening. Seeking help from a healthcare professional to get to the bottom of the issue and to get help is a great first step. There are many options to seek this kind of help online today. With the use of telemedicine, you can make an appointment with a fertility specialist, order a hormone test kit, or get financial help with fertility treatment costs all from the comfort of your own home. We have created a list of the top online fertility clinics, check them out today to start your fertility journey.