Infertility is the inability to conceive a child or bear a child. It can arise from problems within both men and women. Although men are not always directly responsible for infertility, male infertility accounts for about 40 percent of all cases. The rest is due to errors in female reproductive organs. Infertility affects 7.3 million couples in the U.S. There are many common causes and treatments available that can help you get pregnant, whether you choose to try fertility treatments or not.
What is infertility?
Women who can get pregnant but are unable to stay pregnant may also be infertile.
What are the causes of infertility?
Treatments depend on the cause. In other cases, there might be no clear identifiable cause. A couple’s infertility can be caused by a problem with either the man or woman, or both.
Causes in women include:
age-related decline in fertility
ovulation disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome
problems with the cervix or uterus
fallopian tube blockage or damage
problems with the ovaries, such as cysts
immune system disorders that attack a woman’s eggs or interfere with her ability to conceive
How common is infertility?
There are two types of infertility, primary and secondary..
How is infertility diagnosed and treated ?
An infertility diagnosis is given to a couple that has been unsuccessfully trying to conceive for a year or longer. Because infertility is most often a problem with the woman, it is most often the woman who is first evaluated, though approximately one-third of infertility cases have no clear cause in either the man or woman.
There are many possible causes of infertility, including poor nutrition, emotional stress, sexually transmitted diseases, thyroid disorders, candida (yeast infections), low sperm count, and many others. In addition to asking about your physical health and sexual history, your physician may also ask about any previous pregnancies. If you have been pregnant before and miscarried or had an abortion or stillbirth without medical intervention, it may indicate that there are serious problems with your reproductive system.
In order to properly diagnose infertility in women, your doctor will perform a thorough physical exam, including a pelvic exam and Pap smear. The doctor will also inquire about your menstrual cycle — how long it lasts and when it occurs — as well as any pain you experience during intercourse. She will also check for signs of infection or other conditions that may be affecting your fertility.
The following diagnostic tests will give a better idea about your fertility status:
This test shows if there is any blockage in the fallopian tubes or uterine abnormalities by injecting a contrast dye into the uterus through the vagina.
Your male partner’s semen will be examined to check for sperm count and motility. This can also help determine if there are any issues with the sperm shape, semen content and its ability to move forward.
This involves removing a tissue sample from the lining of your uterus to check if you have any infection or hormonal imbalance that may be affecting your fertility.
What are the treatments for male infertility?
Treatments for male infertility depend on the cause. For example, if a varicocele is causing the problem, your doctor might suggest surgery.
If a man has an infection, certain antibiotics can help clear it up. If he has a hormone imbalance, supplements and other medications may be used as treatments.
A man whose sperm are blocked from leaving his body often can be treated with surgery or other procedures that open the blockage.
If no cause is found, or if the problem cannot be corrected, fertility doctors can use assisted reproductive technologies (ART). In these procedures, sperm are surgically removed from a man’s reproductive tract and used to fertilize his partner’s egg in a lab dish. The resulting embryo is transferred to her uterus for implantation and pregnancy.
What are the treatments for female infertility?
Some treatments for female infertility include:
Ovulation induction. Your doctor may give you a medication that stimulates your ovaries to produce one or more eggs — a process called ovulation.
Intrauterine insemination. This procedure involves placing sperm directly into your uterus when you’re ovulating. In some cases, your doctor may recommend using sperm that have been washed and prepared for intrauterine insemination, especially if you’re using semen from a donor.
Artificial insemination with donor sperm. If you’re not producing sperm or if there’s no male partner available to provide sperm, artificial insemination using donor sperm is an option. A fertility specialist will choose a donor based on your family medical history and the results of blood and genetic testing. In vitro fertilization (IVF). With IVF, doctors remove eggs from the ovary, fertilize them with sperm in a dish outside the body, and then transfer the embryo to the uterus with a catheter. IVF may be used if other fertility treatments haven’t been successful or if there are significant problems with the male partner’s semen.
Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT). This procedure is similar to IVF except that once doctors remove eggs from the ovary
Infertility affects approximately 15% of couples. It has many possible causes and treatments.