Conceiving a baby is a dream that many couples share when starting a life together but it can be upsetting and frustrating when there’s difficulty in making this dream come true.
Infertility is one of the things that stop this dream from coming true, and it’s a word that describes couples who are unable to get pregnant after one year of having unprotected sex. It is also attributed to women who can get pregnant, but are unable to maintain the pregnancy to birth.
Difficulties in conceiving a baby can impact each individual emotionally, and their relationship as a couple as a consequence. However, most of the causes for infertility are treatable, but it’s important that you first understand what these causes are. After all, you can’t treat what you don’t know you’re suffering from.
What Is Infertility?
Two people – male and female – are needed to conceive a child. The female produces an egg, which must travel through the Fallopian tubes towards the uterus. The male produces sperm, which must join the egg somewhere along the way. The fertilized egg must then attach to the inside of the uterus, where it starts developing into a fetus.
This is, in a nutshell, the process of pregnancy and while it does look straightforward there are actually quite a few things that can go wrong with it at any step and any time. The things that can go wrong are usually referred to as infertility and they usually happens for 1 in 4 (quite a high percentage, that is) cases of couples trying to conceive.
Infertility can result when there is a problem with any part of this process. When there is trouble conceiving, both parts of the couple need to be evaluated by a professional to determine what the issues are.
Female-Specific Infertility Issues
Female-specific issues are typically related to egg production, or egg survival after it’s been fertilized by the male’s sperm. Thirty to 40% of couples will find that their fertility issues are related to a problem with the woman and there can be a lot of factors causing these issues. There might be things related to physical conditions (such as defects of the uterus or cervix), scarring from STDs, hormonal imbalances or deficiencies, or any other reason really.
Other factors that can affect infertility are obesity, heavy alcohol use, excessive exercising (yes, this actually is true!), or poor nutrition. And stress and emotional issues could also be a factor in infertility, as well. So, as you can see there’s quite a few things that could go wrong in the process of conceiving a baby, and this is only on the female’s side of things.
While some of these infertility issues can be remedied by the female alone with a bit of a professional guidance others may need further evaluation by a physician. So, if you have tried to conceive for a few years without success our recommendation is to see a physician, or a fertility professional (this might also help)
Male-Specific Infertility Issues
As we’ve mentioned above, the male contribution to pregnancy is also important because the male sperm fertilizes the woman’s egg, which is crucial for conception. Infertility issues that are male-specific are usually related to sperm production, motility, or a blockage that prevents the sperm from reaching the egg.
About 20% of the couples that are trying to conceive will find that their problems are caused by the male part of the couple. Male-specific issues could be related to physical problems such as scarring, infection, or hormonal deficiencies. But exposure to extreme heat, chemotherapy, and radiation can also impact sperm production, as can smoking, alcohol, and environmental pollutants, as well. Any, or all of these things could stop you from having a baby and unless you know precisely what the culprit is there’s no point in even starting a treatment.
There are lots of treatments for infertility and this is quite good because these will usually depend on the cause and length of infertility, the age of the infertile man/woman, as well as the personal preferences of the couple. (Infertility causes can be determined with 80-85% accuracy after evaluation and testing by a physician.)
So, what are these treatment options and techniques that you have available?
Well, there are quite a few, actually…
Maintaining a healthy diet, weight, and lifestyle is one such option that will increase your chances of getting pregnant. If this doesn’t help, other methods will be needed.
If infertility happens as a result of decreasing in egg production medication may be needed to stimulate ovulation. The risks with medication, however are increased chances of multiple births and enlarged ovaries.
If infertility is related to scar tissue or obstruction in the female organs, surgery is an option to remove adhesions and scar tissue.
If, when followed through correctly, these options still don’t result in pregnancy, in vitro fertilization (IVF, shortly) may be an option for the trying couples. The IVF method involves fertilizing the female egg with male sperm in a laboratory, then implanting the embryo directly into the uterus 3 to 5 days later. But just like in case of medications this method also increases the chance of multiple births, and it also requires frequent blood tests and daily hormone injections which makes it kind of a last resort for some couples.
For the male part of the couple, things are usually simpler to deal with because most of the time it’s something about the sperm that affects infertility.
If infertility is due to decreased sperm production, medication is available to help increase the sperm count. Surgical intervention may be needed if there is an obstruction related to scar tissue or adhesions in the male organs.
However, there are instances when an infection could be preventing sperm production, so antibiotics may be needed. The testicles are where sperm is produced, so if the issue is sperm production then keeping testicles cool could help, as can wearing loose underwear, such as boxers.
About 30% to 40% of couples are dealing with infertility issues in both male and female. In these cases, a combination of treatments and techniques for both parts are usually recommended in order to conceive. Unfortunately, 10% of the couples will never be able to determine which are the causes of their fertility problem, but they are encouraged to keeping trying to conceive naturally as some women in these couples have successfully conceived even at old age, despite of not knowing what their problems were.
Infertility can put an emotional strain on a marriage, but with love and understanding, and with openly discussing this issue with each other things can be remedied.
Infertility is not fatal or physically damaging, but the emotional impact can be devastating. Therefore, it is important to discuss these issues together as a couple, and not place the blame on the spouse. Marriage issues may arise with infertility and individuals may suffer from anxiety and depression but with proper treatment, 60% of couples with fertility issues usually do get pregnant.
Infertility issues are oftentimes treatable, and a successful pregnancy can result. Though it can be frustrating, a little time and patience can go a long way. Sometimes nature take its course with conception, and there are times when nature needs a little assistance from modern medicine. Either way, chances are high that you will eventually conceive if you keep trying and you follow the right guidance.
It should also be noted that infertility treatments can be quite expensive, so keep this in mind before seeking treatment.