If you and your partner have struggled to start a family, you’re far from alone.
Infertility is a heartbreaking medical condition that affects women and men of every race, religion, sexuality, and socioeconomic status. It is estimated that as many as 15% of American couples have difficulty getting pregnant.
For couples who have trouble conceiving, infertility can be a source of embarrassment. One survey found that 61% of people with infertility don’t tell friends or family members about the problem.
We at Women’s Health Associates want to challenge that stigma by providing you with helpful information about what can cause infertility, as well as infertility treatment options.
The first thing you and your partner need to know is that infertility is not your fault — it’s a treatable medical condition. And the good news is that help getting pregnant is available.
What Is Infertility?
Infertility is defined as an inability to conceive after one year of regular, unprotected vaginal intercourse, or after six months if the woman is over 35. It can also involve an inability to carry a pregnancy to term.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, a typical couple, ages 29-33, has about a 20 to 25% chance of conceiving in any given month, and about 60% of healthy couples will conceive within 6 months of regular intercourse without needing any medical intervention.
However, it’s estimated that 7.4 million women in the United States have received some sort of infertility treatment in their lives.
What Causes Infertility?
There are many different possible causes of infertility in females and males alike.
Both men and women can experience conditions that interfere with the ability to conceive. About ⅓ of infertility cases can be attributed to conditions affecting the female partner, ⅓ can be attributed to the male partner, with the remaining ⅓ attributed to both partners or unexplained.
Here are some possible reasons for infertility in women to discuss with your doctor:
- Age. There is a relationship between age and fertility. After the age of 35, it becomes more difficult, although certainly not impossible, for women to conceive without intervention. A woman’s egg count and egg quality will begin to decline about 10 to 15 years before menopause.
- Medical conditions. Endometriosis and uterine fibroids are examples of conditions which can cause infertility in women. Endometriosis occurs when cells normally shed during menstruation end up outside of the uterus. Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that affect about 80% of women over 40.
- Lifestyle factors. Smoking and alcohol consumption, as well as the use of some drugs, may interfere with your ability to get pregnant. Weighing too much or too little, or getting too little or too much exercise, may also contribute to infertility.
How to Treat Infertility
About 44% of women with infertility seek medical intervention, and 65% of those who seek treatment will give birth.
When it comes to treating infertility, about 85 to 90% are treated with medications or surgery. Less than 3% of cases are treated with assistive reproductive technology such as in vitro fertilization or IVF.
- Lifestyle changes. If you’re trying to get pregnant, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to increase your chance of conception. These may include quitting smoking, gaining or losing weight, or exercise.
- Medication. Some infertility may be caused by hormonal abnormalities which may be treated with medication. Polycystic ovary syndrome, for example, can lead to an irregular menstrual cycle and is often treated with the hormone progesterone. Other treatments for infertility, such as clomiphene citrate or gonadotropins, may be prescribed to induce ovulation and may increase the risk of a multiple pregnancy.
- Surgery. If your infertility is caused by blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids, surgery may help to correct or manage these conditions and increase your chances of conceiving.
- Assisted reproductive technologies. With in vitro fertilization (IVF), a sperm and egg are combined in a lab, and then the embryo is transferred to the uterus. For women under 35, the live birth rate per fresh non-donor embryo transfer is 47.7%, and for women ages 35 to 37 it is 39.2%.
IVF treatment is typically used for the following cases:
- Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes when surgery isn’t an option
- Male infertility
- Severe endometriosis
- Premature ovarian failure
- Unexplained infertility
The sperm may come from the male partner or a donor, and the IVF process may take more than one attempt to succeed. An IVF procedure does carry with it an increased risk of multiple pregnancy, and a small increase in the risk of birth defects such as cleft palate, heart problems, and digestive problems.
If you’re having trouble trying to conceive, help is available.
Please contact us at Women’s Health Associates for an appointment.
Our doctors will help you determine the cause of your infertility and recommend the appropriate treatment to help you and your partner achieve your goal of becoming parents.