Infertility: What You Need to Know
The CDC defines infertility in couples as the inability to conceive a child after one year of unprotected sex. Infertility is also diagnosed in the case of women above 35 years old after six months of non-conception. Old-age, hormonal imbalances, low/poor quality sperm count, disease, and reproductive system impairments are among the top causes of infertility. Here’s everything you should know before visiting infertility clinics:
Men’s Infertility vs. Women’s Infertility
Infertility is a concern for men and women alike and can result in emotional distress. In men, the condition can result from abnormal sperm function and production. Other causes include problematic sperm delivery, environmental factors, and damage stemming from cancer treatment.
In women, infertility often results from ovulation disorders, fallopian tube damage/blockage, and uterine and cervical abnormalities. Other causes of infertility in women include early menopause, cancer, endometriosis, and pelvic adhesions.
The risk factors are usually similar for men and women, including age, alcohol and tobacco use, and being overweight/underweight. Repeated exposure to toxins, pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals are other risk factors. Infertility may also stem from disease and injuries that affect the reproductive system.
How Do People Become Infertile?
Infertility can be present at birth or may develop later in life due to the risk factors mentioned above. Most women can’t get pregnant because of irregular or absent menstrual periods. For men, hormonal problems can cause fluctuations in sexual function, affecting their ability to produce sufficient quality sperms. Many couples eventually conceive without intervention, but some may require treatment to restore normal reproductive function.
Ovulation and fertilization processes need to happen properly for successful conception to occur. Healthy eggs develop in women and have to be ovulated. The sperm quality and quantity also need to be sufficient, and the uterus and fallopian tubes must function normally. The timing also has to be right. Any abnormalities in the reproductive system can make it difficult to conceive.
Infertility Symptoms and Testing
Couples who have been trying to conceive without success should see an experienced fertility doctor. Women below 35 years should visit a doctor if they don’t get pregnant after one year, or after six months if they’re older than 35. Men should see an experienced infertility doctor if they experience erectile dysfunction, low sex drive, or delayed or retrograde ejaculation. Pain/swelling in the genital area and previous surgery also warrant a visit to infertility clinics.
The infertility doctor will begin by reviewing medical and sexual history, overall health, and risk factors. A physical exam may also be necessary to check the genitals for lumps and structural abnormalities. Most tests include semen sample analysis, which involves examining sperm count, shape, and movement. Depending on the test result, the infertility doctor may recommend hormonal testing, genetic testing, and genital ultrasound.
In the case of women, the doctor will assess medical history, health status, sexual history, and conditions/illnesses linked to infertility. The infertility doctor will also examine the pelvic area for fibroids, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and other abnormalities. A blood test or at-home ovulation testing kit may be necessary to determine if the patient ovulates every month. Other tests include ultrasound, hysterosalpingography, laparoscopy, ovarian reserve testing, and follicle stimulating hormone tests.
How to Prevent Infertility
Some types of infertility are preventable. Infertility doctors usually recommend having intercourse several times around the ovulation time frame to increase pregnancy rates. Intercourse at least five days before and one day after ovulation can improve the chances of getting pregnant. Most types of men’s infertility are not preventable, but using specific precautions and strategies can help. Here’s what infertility doctors recommend for men and women:
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and other drugs
- Limit the use of medications known to impact fertility
- Avoid hot tubs, hot baths, and other high temperatures
- Exercise more regularly to keep a healthy weight
- Avoid environmental and industrial toxins
Treating Infertility in Couples
Men and women with infertility have many treatment options, including changing the intercourse schedule or using oral medication. The fertility doctor may also recommend elaborate treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF), egg freezing, embryo testing, and donors/surrogates. Infertility treatment begins with evaluating the causes to determine the best treatment option.
The treatment option used depends on the cause of infertility and how long the couple has been trying to conceive. Age, overall health, and personal preferences also influence treatment options. Infertility doctors focus on understanding and correcting the cause of the condition. For most people, simple changes like adjusting the intercourse schedule are effective. In other cases, the couples need advanced approaches.
Working With Reputable Infertility Clinics
Male and female infertility can be treated through medication, surgery, and assisted reproductive technology (ART), such as IVF. Preventative methods, a healthy lifestyle, and conception strategies can also improve the chances of conception.
Couples struggling to conceive should choose reputable infertility clinics like MCRM Fertility to get the best diagnosis and treatment. The goal is to understand what causes infertility, treatment options, and preventative measures to improve the chances of success.