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What You Need to Know About Infertility

Posted: 4/20/2020
What You Need to Know About Infertility

Are you and your partner having difficulty getting pregnant? You are not alone. Unfortunately, infertility is quite common in the United States, with about 10% to 15% of couples infertile. Fortunately, infertility is often preventable and treatable. During National Infertility Awareness Week, it’s important to educate yourself on this matter, especially if you and your significant other are interested in having a baby in the future.

What is Infertility?

Infertility is a condition of the reproductive system that prevents the conception of children. In general, infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year (or longer) of unprotected sex or six months if a woman is 35 years of age or older, according to the CDC.

Men Infertility vs. Women Infertility

Infertility is not solely a woman's concern; fairly often, a male problem causes or contributes. With men, infertility is caused by several different factors, including abnormal sperm production or function, problems with the delivery of sperm, overexposure to certain environmental factors, or damage related to cancer and treatment. On the other hand, women infertility is caused by ovulation disorders, uterine or cervical abnormalities, fallopian tube damage or blockage, endometriosis, early menopause, pelvic adhesions, or cancer and treatment. Many infertility risk factors are the same for both males and females, which include age, tobacco use, alcohol use, being overweight and underweight, and exercise issues.

Causes and Symptoms

For a pregnancy to be successful, all of the steps during ovulation and fertilization need to happen correctly. Often, the issues that cause infertility in couples are present at birth, or they develop later in life. 
The main symptom is not getting pregnant. When a woman cannot conceive, they often have irregular or absent menstrual periods. Or, if a man struggles with infertility, they may show signs of hormonal problems, such as changes in hair growth or sexual function. But most couples will eventually conceive, with or without treatment.

Prevention and Treatment

Unfortunately, some types of infertility are not preventable, but there are several strategies you and your significant other can do to increase your chances of a successful pregnancy. Couples need to have regular intercourse several times around ovulation for the highest pregnancy rate. If you start to have intercourse at least five days before and at least one day after ovulation, you can best improve your chances. For men, most types of infertility are not preventable, but it may help to:

  • Avoid drug, tobacco, and alcohol use
  • Avoid high temperatures found in hot tubs and hot baths
  • Avoid exposure to industrial or environmental toxins
  • Limit medications that may impact fertility
  • Get regular physical activity.

For women, several strategies can help increase the chances of getting pregnant, such as:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding alcohol and drug use
  • Limiting caffeine
  • Exercising regularly
  • Avoiding weight extremes

There is a wide range of treatments available to help couples conceive. These treatments range from something as simple as changing the time when intercourse is taking place or using oral medications to more elaborate options like IVF (in vitro fertilization), embryo testing, egg freezing, and utilizing donors and surrogates. The key to a successful pregnancy is to carefully evaluate the cause of infertility to provide the best possible treatment. In most cases, a simple solution does the trick.

When to Get Professional Help

According to general guidelines, you probably don't need to speak with a specialist about infertility unless you have struggled to get pregnant for at least one year. However, women should talk with their doctor if they are over the age of 40, have irregular or absent periods, painful periods, known fertility problems, have been diagnosed with endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease, had multiple miscarriages, or have undergone cancer treatment. Whereas men should talk to a doctor if they have a low sperm count or other issues with sperm, a history of testicular, prostate or sexual problems, undergone cancer treatment, small testicles or swelling in the scrotum, or a family history of infertility problems.
Most people have a strong desire to have a child at some point in their lifetime. It is essential for you, as a person, or as a couple, to understand what normal fertility is, what the risk factors for infertility are, and the proper time to seek help if needed. If you think you are not able to get pregnant, see your healthcare provider early. Remember, your age, and how long you have been trying to get pregnant may affect treatment. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the New York State Department of Health has declared fertility services as essential services. If you need to be seen by a specialist, clinics in the area are still offering IVF treatments, diagnostic testing, and conducting in-office and virtual visits.





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