Learn more about infertility to improve your chances of getting pregnant.
What is infertility?
Primary infertility is defined as the inability for a couple to conceive a child after one year of unprotected intercourse with no results. Secondary infertility refers to couples who have previously conceived but have not been successful in achieving conception again. A woman may also be considered infertile if she gets pregnant but is unable to stay pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control reports that 10% of the female population in the US has trouble conceiving and/or staying pregnant.
Causes for infertility can be a result of problems with the male or the female reproductive system and significantly increases with age. Peak fertility for women occurs in her 20s but women are born with a finite number of eggs that decrease significantly after age 35 and then dramatically after age 40.
How to know if you may be infertile.
The primary symptom of infertility is the inability to achieve conception after one year of unprotected intercourse (6 months if the female is over 35). There may be no other symptoms or underlying clues that an individual or couple will have problems becoming pregnant until they start trying to conceive.
Reasons why a person can be infertile.
Infertility can stem from advanced age, problems with the male sperm, problems with the female reproductive system or a combination thereof. There are many specific reasons couples may find themselves unable to conceive that include physical, emotional and even environmental factors.
Female infertility can be the result of:
- Hormone imbalance
- Ovarian cysts or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Fallopian tube dysfunction
- Ovaries cannot produce enough eggs
- Egg fails to attach to the lining of the uterus or simply does not move in to the womb
- Pelvic infection disease (PID)
- Early menopause
- Thyroid problems
- Kidney disease
Male infertility can be the result of:
- Lack of sperm
- Abnormal sperm function (slow or no mobility)
- Congenital absence of the vas deferens (CAVD)
- Cancer and radiation treatment
- Hormone deficiency
Drugs/prescription medications/herbs that may cause infertility in women and men
- Cannabis (marijuana)
- St. John’s Wort
- Cyproterone Acetate
To determine the cause for infertility and the best course of treatment, both partners will undergo physical exams, including a complete blood panel. Testing for men may also include sperm testing. Women may need to undergo a laparoscopy, pelvic exam and/or hysterosalpingography (HSG), among other tests, for the best diagnosis.
Treatment methods will be determined by the patient’s age, length of infertility and medical diagnosis. They include medication, surgery or a combination of both.
Treatment for men:
- Counseling about impotence or premature ejaculation issues
- Hormones or surgery to correct lack of sperm problems
- Medications including clomiphene citrate, tamoxifen, ProXeed
- Sperm extraction methods may also be used
Treatment for women:
Often, drug therapy is the first course of action in treating infertility in women. The goal of this therapy is to prepare the body for treatment and encourage release of healthy eggs from the ovaries.
Common medications include:
- Clomid (clomiphene)
- Synthetic human chorionic gonadotropin (hcg)
- Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
Common procedures for infertility:
- Intrauterine insemination
- In vitro fertilization (IVF)
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
In some cases, to achieve successful conception, a sperm or egg donor may be required. If a woman is diagnosed with the inability to become pregnant or carry the child to a full healthy term, the couple may seek out a surrogate to carry the baby for them until delivery.
Many couples looking to increase their chances of conception without undergoing invasive or costly medical tests and procedures may first look at a holistic or natural approach. Common alternative treatments for infertility include acupuncture, yoga, meditation, biofeedback and prayer. While these practices may be helpful in preparing the mind and body for conception, medical intervention may still be required.
Since many infertility issues for both men and women are caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), limit sexual partners and use protection when engaging in intercourse.
Avoid alcohol abuse, stop smoking and never take illegal drugs as these have shown to cause or increase infertility in some patients.
If you’re of child-bearing age, discuss all side effects of prescription medication with your doctor.