Infertility

For women who are struggling to become pregnant, each month that goes by without conceiving brings on a wave of emotions. Anger, frustration, disappointment. These feelings may intensify as friends or family members become pregnant with seemingly no problems. The painful question of why it seems so easy for everyone else to get pregnant and why you cannot may be echoing through your head. The truth is that it isn’t easy for many people and millions of couples seek help for fertility problems each year. While it is natural to be discouraged by infertility problems, there are good reasons to be optimistic. The answers may lie in simple steps, or they may require more advanced medical techniques.

Some causes of female infertility include:

  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Tumor or cyst
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Thyroid problems
  • Excess weight
  • Stress
  • Intense exercise
  • Brief menstrual cycles
  • Damaged reproductive organs
  • Late pregnancy in the early 30s or 40s

About 10% of couples in the United States are infertile. Couples may be infertile if the woman has not been able to conceive after 6-12 months of having sex without the use of birth control, however the number of months depends on many factors, such as your age, your partner's age, and how long you have been trying to get pregnant. Since there are many possible causes of infertility we’ll look at some of the most common.

Age

For healthy young couples, the odds are about 20% that a woman will conceive in any one menstrual cycle. This figure starts to decline in a woman's late 20s and early 30s and decreases even more after age 35 years. A man's fertility also declines with age, but not as early. For this reason, older couples may not want to wait 6-12 months to seek care if they are having problems conceiving.

Male Factors

The amount or health of the sperm are important for conception to occur. Abnormal hormone levels, infection or scarring from a sexually transmitted disease (STD) also may be a cause.

Female Factors

They may also involve abnormal hormone levels, there may be scarring or blockages in the cervix or tubes or the ovaries may not produce enough eggs at the right time.

Lifestyle Factors

Poor nutrition, anorexia, and obesity can play a part in infertility. Exposure to a drug called diethylstilbestrol (DES) can cause problems. This might be a concern if you were born in the United States before the late 1970s or in another country before the 1980s. Other health problems also can play a role.

In order to determine what the causes of infertility may be, it is important to contact your gynecologist. A physical examination is the best way to help determine what is preventing conception and what will most likely be required for both you and your spouse. Your gynecologist will also be able to prescribe any drug treatments, behavioral modifications or surgeries that might help couples in achieving a successful pregnancy.

It is important to discuss all of the treatment options, costs and risks with your spouse and gynecologist. If you are hesitant to proceed with some of the more advanced medical techniques, then you may consider taking a break from treatments for a while to let your body rest and to think things over. It is important to stay hopeful but also to stay realistic. Struggling with infertility can be an emotional rollercoaster and it’s important to be in communication with someone you can trust and with whom you can be honest. It can also put a strain on even the best of relationships. It is important to communicate with each other and to be honest about your emotions. Make sure to take time to appreciate and enjoy one another. Keep in mind that if you decide to end treatments altogether there are still many options that can allow you to experience the joys of being a parent.