Infertility is one of those words that people avoid as much as possible. It can be devastating for many, so avoiding talk about it around couples is often considered the best option. However, the people around you suffering from infertility may want to open to someone about it.
You may be suffering from infertility problems. Someone close to you may be struggling to conceive. If you’re struggling with the situation, go into conversations armed with the knowledge. Know more about the reasons for infertility, treatment options to help people conceive, and tips to manage the mental health issues and disappointment surrounding the topic.
After years of avoiding pregnancy, it is a shock for many to learn they can’t have children or that getting pregnant isn’t that easy after all. So, here’s all you need to know about infertility and your options.
Are You Infertile?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that someone is “infertile” if they have not conceived after a year of trying for a baby. However, not conceiving after a year doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never conceive. For some people, it just takes a little longer and if you’re a healthy adult, it could take up to two years to succeed.
However, if after a year you haven’t been successful then you’ll want to talk to your doctor. They will start tests to determine if you can have children if there’s a medical reason and if there’s a way to help improve your chances.
Your doctor will want to see both you and your partner. This is important as either one of you could struggle to have children. And then there are some couples where both suffer from infertility.
If you haven’t had your period after six months, you’ll want to talk to your doctor sooner. This is a sign that you’re no longer ovulating, so you have no eggs to fertilize. Doctors also recommend that you speak to a specialist sooner than the year mark if you’re over 35, as this is when the chances of getting a pregnant decrease.
Don’t put the blame on each other when it comes to infertility. This is something you can both help with, regardless of who is infertile. In 20% of cases, the man will be the one that’s infertile and in 40-50% of cases, it’s the woman. The other 30-40% of cases both in the couple are infertile. According to recent studies, infertility affects around 15% of couples in the United States, so it is a relatively common problem.
Have You Caused Your Infertility?
There’s always this thought of whether you’d done something. We start to worry that we’ve damaged our uterus or that we’ve caused our hormones to become out of sync. When it comes to men, there are worries of wearing briefs that are too tight or too much damage to the testicles.
Having these fears are normal. Often, though, it’s nothing that you’ve done. The infertility issues could have been there from birth. It’s all linked to biology.
In some cases, it’s simply getting the ovulation timing wrong. If you have irregular cycles, there’s a chance you’ve not got the ovulation date right each month or you’re struggling to work it out. Using ovulation tests can help to narrow down your window to increase the chance of getting pregnant. And yes, you need to have unprotected sex during your ovulation window to have the strongest chances of getting pregnant.
However, it’s not all about timing. The sperm needs to fertilize the egg and the egg then needs to get to the uterus and implant in the lining.
If there’s a hormonal balance, it’s possible that ovulation occurs at different time periods each month. There’s a chance that the uterus isn’t the best environment for attaching. Your partner may not have sperm strong enough to reach your eggs and the lube you use can cause damage to the sperm before it even has the chance to reach the egg!
Some medical conditions can also lead to infertility. They disrupt the hormones, damage the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or other organs necessary for conception. Disorders like PCOS or some sexually transmitted diseases are the most common reasons for infertility occurring later in life. Diabetes is another health condition that has a side effect of infertility, especially if not managed.
For women, an underactive thyroid can also affect fertility. The thyroid gland affects the estrogen in the body and can disrupt the cycles. While it won’t be impossible, it can be difficult to conceive. Once you get the thyroid working properly with medication, you should find this issue is fixed.
There are some things that you can do to affect your fertility. For example, heavy drinkers, smokers, and steroid users can find they can’t conceive as well as those who don’t partake in these lifestyle choices. This is especially the case for men, as the drugs and alcohol can lead to sluggish sperm making it harder for them to get to the egg.
How Will Doctors Check for Infertility Reasons?
There are a variety of tests your doctor can perform to see if the infertility problems lie with you. One of those is to test your ovarian function. Your doctor will want to make sure you are ovulating properly. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going through menopause. There are many reasons for a disruption in the ovulation.
Doctors will also carry out scans and checks on the fallopian tubes. Sometimes they can become inflamed or blocked, especially due to sexually transmitted disorders. When swollen, it’s harder for the sperm and egg to meet. Your uterus will also be checked to make sure there are no abnormal characteristics. For example, scar tissue can make it harder for the egg to implant after being fertilized.
If there are no physical reasons within the uterus and surrounding area for infertility, your doctor will look for other signs. Your doctor will run tests to see if you have something like pelvic inflammatory disease or PCOS. Be honest about sexual partners, any excessive drinking, health problems, smoking habits, and any stress.
Stress is a common reason for infertility. Some people find that the minute they stop thinking about getting pregnant and worrying about it, they find it easier to conceive. This is because stress affects everything about you, including your hormones.
Your doctor will also want to know about your eating habits. It’s important to have a diet that supports the growth of a baby before conception. This will help you get the nutrients your uterus and ovaries need to keep the hormones in balance and support the development of your baby. Vegans are more likely to suffer from fertility problems than vegetarians or meat eaters. This is due to the lack of zinc, iron, and B12. Your doctor will likely recommend supplements to help ensure you get the right levels of vitamins to support the chances of getting pregnant.
If you are obese, your doctor will likely suggest weight loss. Obesity can make it harder to lose weight, due to the excess stress and hormonal disruption. There are also more risks during pregnancy if you’re overweight or obese.
Some infertility problems can be genetic. Researchers are still trying to understand the genetic link and why this is the case.
What Are Your Options to Improve Fertility?
Being infertile isn’t permanent at all. However, this will depend on the reason for infertility. It’s important to remain positive to help support your own mental health and to reduce the stress you experience. Positivity can help your body react to treatments better to improve chances of conceiving in the future.
It’s worth being positive. In most of cases, infertility is treatable.
The exact treatment options you’ll be offered will depend on results from medical tests. In some cases, it will involve changing your lifestyle. If you smoke or drink excessively, your doctor will likely suggest that you change your lifestyle first.
Looking at your eating habits and nutrient levels are important. Your doctor will make sure you’re getting plenty of zinc, B12, and iron to help support conception. It’s not just those who are obese who can struggle. Women underweight can find it hard to get pregnant, especially those with eating disorders. The hormones aren’t at the right level to support ovulation.
However, fertility drugs can be used. The idea is that the drugs put in the right hormones to help stimulate your natural ovulation cycle. This can improve the chances of ovulating on time and properly, increasing the chances of getting pregnant month after month.
Clomifene is usually prescribed to those who need help to ovulate regularly. This is especially the case if you have PCOS or another similar disorder. The drug helps the pituitary gland release extra follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone to boost ovulation chances.
If you don’t respond to clomifene, your doctor will likely prescribe you metformin. This is another treatment for stimulating ovulation and is highly effective for women with PCOS and diabetes.
When you don’t ovulate on your own, your doctor may need to inject the human menopausal gonadotropin, which is a mixture of both hormones boosted with clomifene. The drug helps to put the hormones into your body to help you ovulate each month.
In some woman, the hormone prolactin may be too high. This is a hormone normal in breastfeeding women, but it can disrupt the ovarian cycles and cause fertility problems if you’re not breastfeeding. Your doctor will want to use bromocriptine to inhibit the production of the hormone until its necessary.
Surgery may be required to increase fertility chances. In most cases, you’ll either need laparoscopic surgery on various parts of your uterus or ovaries or you may need full fallopian tube surgery.
The laparoscopic surgery involves a small incision with a thin lighted microscope to check inside your body. It’s possible to remove scar tissue, implants, and lesions on the uterus and within the surrounding areas. This is a popular option for those with endometriosis.
If your fallopian tubes are scarred or blocked, you may get surgery directly on the tubes. This can help to repair damage, improve the spacing and make it easier for your eggs to make their way to the uterus. The surgery can also improve the ability for the sperm to travel to your eggs.
In some cases, you may need more extensive surgery. If your uterus is inverted, for example, your doctor will recommend getting surgery to improve the positioning to make it easier for your eggs to implant and remain hospitable for your fetus.
Getting Assistance for Conception
There are more extreme methods to help conceive. One of those is known as intrauterine insemination (IUI). This is when a catheter is placed into the cervix and a sperm sample (treated to improve swimming abilities) is sent directly to the uterus. You may also get some hormonal treatments to help improve ovulation at the time.
This is a popular option if your partner has a low sperm count or poor sperm mobility. It’s also common when the reason for infertility can’t be determined.
The most well-known type of treatment is in vitro fertilization (IVF), which is when the eggs are removed from your body and fertilized in a Petri dish. The fertilized eggs are then placed back into the body, while some may be frozen for use in the future. The idea is that the eggs will find it easier to cling to the uterine wall and develop. It has grown in popularity and success over recent years, but it is one of the more expensive forms of treatment.
Fertility Drugs and Multiple Births
Using fertility drugs can increase the chances of having multiple children. This is especially the case with injectable drugs. The ability to ovulate better can lead to more than one egg being released at a time and both can be fertilized. Oral fertility drugs can increase the chance of multiple pregnancies, but there isn’t the same chance as with the injectable drugs.
Your doctor will monitor you if you have help with conceiving. This will help to keep an eye on the development of embryos and the number of babies growing.
Don’t think that infertility is the end of the world. It’s not necessarily permanent, as in many cases it is treatment. It’s annoying and disappointing, especially when you hear of people who get pregnant by accident. Remain positive and lower your stress levels to make it easier for the right hormones to circulate around your body. You will find it easier for treatments to take effect and work.