The moment you decide you’re ready to have a baby will mark the beginning of an amazing journey. Much like a rollercoaster, this journey is most likely going to have many ups and downs along the way.
There are many things that you should know about trying to get pregnant and successfully conceiving a baby. One of the most impactful challenges that may come your way is infertility.
What Is Infertility?
In the United States alone, about 10 to 15 percent of couples are infertile. This is the portion of couples who face challenges when trying to have a baby. Even though these couples will have frequent, unprotected sex, infertility stands in the way of actually getting pregnant.
The true diagnosis of infertility means you haven’t been able to get pregnant after a year of trying. If you’re a woman over the age of 35, infertility means you haven’t been able to get pregnant after 6 months of trying.
There are two kinds of infertility: primary and secondary. If a woman has never managed to get pregnant, they will be diagnosed with primary infertility. On the other hand, if a woman has conceived but has not successfully carried a pregnancy to term, they will be diagnosed with secondary infertility.
Causes Of Infertility
Just like getting pregnant brings in the power of a male and a female, infertility can also be a problem for both men and women.
Causes Of Male Infertility
- Sperm Count: This includes both the male’s sperm production and function, which can be affected by undescended testicles, genetic defects, and health problems.
- Delivery of Sperm: As we know about conception, the male’s sperm must travel to the woman’s ovaries. However, challenges can arise due to sexual issues, such as premature ejaculation, genetic diseases, or damages to the reproductive organs.
- Environmental Factors: Unhealthy behaviours such as smoking cigarettes, excessive alcohol, exposure to chemicals and radiation can affect one’s fertility. Even body temperature can play a part in sperm production.
- Medical History: Being on different kinds of medication or going through different treatments can also affect fertility. For example, chemotherapy or radiation therapy if there is cancer in one’s medical history.
Causes Of Female Infertility
- Ovulation Issues: Various ovulation disorders can affect the release of eggs from a woman’s ovaries.
- Abnormalities with Uterus or Cervix: Benign tumors in the uterine wall can act as a blockage in the fallopian tubes which can stop a fertilized egg, ultimately causing infertility.
- Cancer and Cancer Treatment: Specific cancers that affect your reproductive system can harm female fertility. Similar to men, women can be affected by chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
- Endometriosis: This is a disorder in which the tissue that normally forms the lining of your uterus instead grows outside of your uterine cavity. This is a common gynecological condition that can cause fertility problems.
It can be extremely disheartening to experience infertility. Just know that you’re not alone in this challenge, and that there are other options for you to turn to in order to start a family of your own.
If you choose to seek treatment, there are different ones recommended based on a variety of factors such as your age, the cause of infertility, how long you’ve been trying to conceive, overall health of the couple, and your personal preferences.
Treatment for Men
Depending on the cause of the male’s infertility, treatment options would include:
- Surgery: Surgical procedures can take care of issues that are interfering the delivery of sperm. In some cases, sperm can be retrieved and used in ART treatments.
- Medication: This can help with hormonal imbalances and other conditions that may be playing a factor in a male’s infertility.
- Assisted reproductive technology (ART): This refers to treatments in which the woman’s egg and the male’s sperm are handled outside of the body. Some common ART treatments include In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), frozen embryo transfer (FET), gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT).
Treatment for Women
Just like treatment for men, treatment for women can involve surgery, medication, and reproductive assistance.
Surgery can be helpful for women’s infertility, but is less popular due to advancements in other methods. Women can resort to intrauterine insemination (IUI), in which sperm is injected into a woman’s uterus during ovulation.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is also a good option which involves the eggs being contracted from the woman’s ovaries and fertilized by the male’s sperm in a laboratory. Once fertilized, the egg will be transferred back into the woman's uterus.
The Bottom Line
Trying to get pregnant has its ups and downs -- Just know that you’re never alone in this. Surround yourself with a positive support system that can get you through challenging times and seek professional medical help if needed.