What is Infertility?
Infertility refers to the inability of a couple to get pregnant after one year of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse. It also refers to when a woman who is 35 or older is unable to conceive after six months of trying, or when a woman can conceive but is unable to carry the pregnancy to term.
According to Centers for Disease Control, about 6% of married women between the ages of 15 and 44 are unable to get pregnant after one year of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse in the United States. Also, about 12% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, regardless of their marital status .
It is hard for you not to worry if you and your partner are trying to have a baby, but you should know that a lot of couples who were unable to conceive after one year of trying eventually conceive without any form of treatment. Your difficulty with conception may be due to a number of factors.
Causes of Infertility
When a couple is trying to have a baby and they are not able to do so, more often than not, it is thought to be as a result of a problem with the woman. But in reality, both women and men have infertility problems. Approximately one-third of infertility cases are as a result of problems with the woman, another one-third as a result of problems with the man, and one-third to unexplained causes or a combination of male and female problems. Some of the causes of infertility in both men and women are:
Problems With Ovulation
This is the most common cause of infertility in women. When a woman does not ovulate, fertilization cannot take place. If your periods are irregular, that may be a sign that you are not ovulating every month, making it more difficult for you to get pregnant. Ovulation problems are themselves caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), an hormonal imbalance condition.
This is a condition where clumps of tissues and muscles form on the walls of the uterus.This condition is fairly common and it can affect any woman of childbearing age. Uterine fibroids are noncancerous and rarely develop into cancer. In most cases, there are no symptoms and so it may be hard for a woman to tell if she has the condition or not.
A man or a woman who is receiving cancer treatment like radiation and chemotherapy may have fertility problems. These treatments are known to interfere with conception because they harm the reproductive organs. For men, chemotherapy drugs and radiation to the testes can hinder their ability to produce healthy sperm.
Too Little or Too Much Weight
A woman who is overweight or underweight may have difficulty with getting pregnant. Having an unhealthy weight can lead to hormonal imbalance and problems with ovulation. A connection has also been established between being overweight or obese and increased risk of PCOS. It is important that you avoid extreme dieting if you intend to get pregnant. There are healthy plants like suma root that you can include in your diet that can help boost your fertility and also help to control your weight.
If you or your partner is cigarettes smoker, you are more likely to have problems with fertility and it would take a longer period for you to conceive than if you or your partner weren’t smokers. The substances in cigarettes destroy sperm and eggs. If you happen to be pregnant but you or your partner smokes, your baby’s health is likely to be affected. You are likely to suffer a miscarriage or have a stillbirth.
Alcohol is never up to any good in your body; there are many problems associated with alcohol consumption. If you or your partner is consuming alcohol, you may have difficulty with getting pregnant. Consuming alcohol, even in moderate amounts, is associated with reproductive problems in both men and women. Alcohol affects the quality of sperm and decreases the level of testosterone. It can also lead to impotence.
Exercise provides a lot of benefit for women. It can improve their fertility, and this is especially true for women who are overweight. However, women who have a normal weight but who exercise excessively or engage mostly in strenuous or vigorous exercise are likely to have problems with fertility.
The older a woman gets, the lower her chances of having a baby. For women who are older than 35, their ovaries is less able to release eggs and their eggs are not as healthy as that of younger women. They also have a smaller number of eggs left and they are more like to have health problems that hinder fertility.
Sexual dysfunction in men like retrograde ejaculation, early onset of menopause in women, genetic conditions, autoimmune disorders and sexually transmitted infections are other factors that may hinder fertility.
Symptoms of Infertility
The only sure way you can tell that you may have problems with fertility is when you are unable to get pregnant. Men rarely have symptoms of infertility. In women, irregular or absent menstrual periods may be a symptom of infertility.
Prevention of Infertility
Infertility is a complex condition and as such, there are times when it cannot be determined why a healthy couple is not able to get pregnant. In such cases, the cause of infertility cannot be avoided or prevented since it is not known. Nevertheless, if you are planning to start a family someday, there are certain things you can do to increase your chances of having a baby. Here are some of them:
- Do not smoke cigarettes and avoid exposure to cigarettes smoke (secondhand smoking). If you smoke and you have trouble quitting, there are effective ways to stop smoking. Herbs like lobelia can be effective in helping you to quit.
- If possible, do not drink alcohol
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Properly manage any medical condition that you may have and protect yourself from getting sick
- Eat healthy foods
- Exercise moderately
- Manage stress
Treatment of Infertility
Infertility treatment is usually targeted at the cause(s), if they are known. If the cause of infertility in men is a problem with the reproductive organ, this can be treated with surgery or medicines. In women, surgery or medicines can also be done depending on the underlying condition. Surgery is done to remove polyps and fibroids. If endometriosis is the underlying cause, surgery is carried out to remove areas of tissue that has been affected.
There are other known fertility treatments used to assist couples who have difficulty with having a baby when other fertility treatments have not been successful. These treatments are known as assisted reproductive technology (ART), and they include:
In vitro fertilization (IVF)
This procedure involves removing eggs from the ovaries; the eggs are fertilized with sperm in a laboratory and placed back in the uterus once an embryo has developed.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
In IUI, healthy sperm is inserted into a woman’s uterus using a long, narrow tube. This procedure is done around the time a woman is ovulating to increase the chances of fertilization.
Third Party Assisted ART
This includes gestational surrogacy, where eggs are removed from a woman and fertilized by her partner’s sperm and the embryo is placed into the uterus of a surrogate. The surrogate carries the baby to term and after delivery, hands the baby over to the parents. A couple may also receive sperm, eggs or embryos from donors.
Infertility can be hard to deal with; it can put a strain on your relationship with your partner and affect you emotionally and physically. Dealing with infertility can cause a lot of stress. It is completely normal for you to be weighed down and disappointed every month when you don’t see what you expect.
Infertility is a stressful life event, but there are ways you can cope with it while it lasts. It is important that you speak with your doctor about your stress. Getting love and support from loved ones is an example of coping mechanisms that you should adopt. Their presence and words of encouragement would give you the strength to get through this difficult time. Remember that most couples who desire to have a baby eventually do. Yours shouldn’t be any different. Should it?
. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ‘Reproductive Health. Infertility FAQs.’ Available: https//www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/index.htm