You and your partner have been trying to grow your family for a long time. As each month passes, you face the disappointing result of a negative pregnancy test with every attempt. At the same time, you become more aware of the pregnancies around you. It feels as though you see women with successful pregnancies everywhere—as though you are surrounded by them. You feel isolated by the fact that you, for some reason, are unable to conceive. However, you are not alone.
It is estimated that almost 12 percent of women in the U.S. face challenges getting pregnant. As more people wait longer to start growing their families, the prevalence of infertility is likely to rise. In 2015, nearly seven million men and women sought help through assisted fertility treatment, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, nearly 175,000 cycles of IVF were conducted in 2013. That’s a 6 percent increase since 2012.
What causes infertility?
Infertility is a complicated issue and a lot of things are involved in being able to conceive.
- Healthy sperm production in men
- Healthy egg production in women
- Fallopian tubes that aren’t blocked, allowing the sperm and egg to connect
- The ability for the sperm to fertilize the egg
- The ability for the fertilized egg to be implanted in the uterus and stay implanted
- Adequate quality of the embryo
Problems in any of these areas could lead to infertility. The woman is not the only one who can suffer from infertility. Men can also be infertile. One third of the time it is a combination of both partners.
Other potential risk factors for women are age, having had multiple miscarriages, hormonal imbalances, chronic diseases, tubal damage, uterine polyps or adhesions, and many others. Male infertility can be caused by prostatitis, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or genital infection. Exposure to hazardous conditions or chemicals can also cause infertility. Heavy alcohol consumption and being around cigarette or marijuana smoke can also affect male fertility.
Though there are many causes for infertility, the direct cause is not always clear. Not knowing the cause makes treating it feel aimless but the good news is that there are very successful options.
What should we do?
In cases such as these, seek a doctor’s guidance. A doctor can do a number of tests to find the cause. She can then develop the best treatment plan to increase your chances of conception.
Some treatment plans include drug therapy, ovulation medication, surgery, and uterine insemination. They can also include additional technology that assists in reproduction, such as using in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Are miscarriages related to infertility?
Miscarriage and infertility are distinct, but potentially related problems. In either case, prospective parents are faced with the possibility that they may never be able to have biologic children. Having multiple miscarriages can indicate or lead to infertility in women. Both involve a great deal of emotional pain and sometimes physical pain. Even infertile patients who achieve a successful live birth have higher rates of postpartum depression.
Where can I find support?
If you are struggling with infertility, some of the best support that you can get is from your family. Confide in your loved ones to help you through the hard emotions. Joining a support group for women or couples who struggle with infertility or miscarriages may also help.
Visit a professional doctor that offers fertility services, whether it is testing or treatment plans. If you are looking for help, UPMC in central Pa. is here with services and doctors to help you. For more information on these services, please visit our fertility services page.