Posted By  Sarah L. Hosker, on

It’s National Infertility Awareness Week…Did you know that it is estimated that ten to fifteen percent of couples have trouble getting pregnant or reaching a successful delivery day? That is one in eight couples! Female infertility, male infertility or a combination of the two affects millions of couples worldwide? So what exactly is infertility? Infertility means that with frequent intercourse for at least a year of actively trying, a couple cannot conceive.

The onus of infertility rests equally between the female and male factoring about one-third of the time for each. The remaining one-third causation is either not known or a combination of both male and female factors. With age, there is a natural decrease in fertility spurring the investigation and management of infertility to be started sooner by some specialists in certain couples.

Identifying the cause of female infertility can be challenging but there are several treatments available once the cause is realized. Your possible treatment will depend on the primary problem. Treatment may not always be warranted as numerous infertile couples do go on to conceive a child naturally. It is estimated that approximately six percent of married women (15-44) are not able to become pregnant after one year of unprotected sex, and that roughly twelve percent of women (15-44) struggle with infertility or carrying a pregnancy forty weeks regardless of their marital status.

Male infertility data from the National Survey of Family Growth in 2002 that was analyzed by the CDC showed that 7.5% of all sexually experienced men younger than age 45 reported seeing a fertility doctor during their lifetime. This means that 3.3–4.7 million men sought help for infertility and of the men who wanted help, 18% were diagnosed with a male-related infertility problem, including sperm or semen problems (14%) and varicocele (6%).

Symptoms

The foremost symptom of infertility is the inability of a couple to become pregnant. Female infertility may be associated with a lack of ovulation arising from a menstrual cycle that is excessively long (35 days or more) or short (less than 21 days). An irregular or absent period can signal a lack of ovulation as being the cause of infertility. However, there may also be no other apparent signs or symptoms.

When you decide to see a doctor and seek medical help depends, to some extent, on your age, as a woman’s age is probably the most significant factor related to her ability to conceive. According to the Mayo Clinic:

– If you’re in your early 30s or younger, most doctors recommend trying to get pregnant for at least a year before having any testing or treatment.

-If you’re between 35 and 40, discuss your concerns with your doctor after six months of trying.

-If you’re older than 40, your doctor may want to begin testing or treatment right away.

Your doctor will most likely recommend a member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in your area to help you with your infertility.

Causes

Today, the trend of delayed marriage and childbirth are the main social causes of infertility. Physically, in order for you to become pregnant ovulation, sperm, regular intercourse, open fallopian tubes and a normal uterus must all co-exist working simultaneously together. However, there are several factors that can prevent this process from taking place and causing female infertility. Genetic testing will also help determine whether there’s A genetic defect may also be a source of infertility prompting the need for genetic testing.

Ovulation Disorders   

Ovulation disorders are responsible for roughly 25 percent of couples remaining infertile. This condition causes you to ovulate irregularly or perhaps not at all. Inconsistency in the reproductive hormonal regulation by either the hypothalamus or pituitary gland, or by difficulties within the ovary itself may be to blame for this problem. The Mayo Clinic defines ovulation disorders as:

– Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In PCOS, complex changes occur in the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and ovaries, resulting in a hormone imbalance, which affects ovulation. PCOS is associated with insulin resistance and obesity, abnormal hair growth on the face or body, and acne. It’s the most common cause of female infertility.

– Hypothalamic dysfunction. The two hormones responsible for stimulating ovulation each month — follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) — are produced by the pituitary gland in a specific pattern during the menstrual cycle. Excess physical or emotional stress, a very high or very low body weight, or a recent substantial weight gain or loss can disrupt this pattern and affect ovulation. The main sign of this problem is irregular or absent periods.

– Premature ovarian insufficiency. This disorder is usually caused by an autoimmune response where your body mistakenly attacks ovarian tissues or by premature loss of eggs from your ovary due to genetic problems or environmental insults such as chemotherapy. It results in the loss of the ability to produce eggs by the ovary, as well as a decreased estrogen production under the age of 40.

– Too much prolactin. Less commonly, the pituitary gland can cause excess production of prolactin (hyperprolactinemia), which reduces estrogen production and may cause infertility. Most commonly this is due to a problem in the pituitary gland, but it can also be related to medications you’re taking for another disease.

Damaged fallopian tubes (tubal infertility)

The inability of sperm to reach the egg or the failure of the fertilized egg to reach and implant in the uterus may be due to damaged or blocked fallopian tubes. The Mayo Clinic states tubal damage or blockage may be a result of:

– Pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes due to chlamydia, gonorrhea or other sexually transmitted infections.

– Previous surgery in the abdomen or pelvis, including surgery for ectopic pregnancy, in which a fertilized egg becomes implanted and starts to develop in a fallopian tube instead of the uterus.

– Pelvic tuberculosis, a major cause of tubal infertility worldwide, although uncommon in the United States.

Endometriosis

Uterine tissue that implants and grows elsewhere is called endometriosis. This additional growth of uterine tissue when removed surgically may cause scarring obstructing the narrow fallopian tube. If this occurs, the egg and sperm will not unite. Equally, endometriosis may also affect the lining of the uterus jeopardizing the implantation of the fertilized egg. This condition may also be indirectly responsible for upsetting fertility by causing injury to the sperm or egg. It is estimated that 25-50 percent of women have this condition.

Uterine or cervical causes

There are a number of uterine or cervical conditions that may interfere with your egg becoming implanted in the uterus. This increases the risk of a miscarriage. The Mayo Clinic defines these conditions as:

Benign polyps or tumors (fibroids or myomas) are common in the uterus, and some types can impair fertility by blocking the fallopian tubes or by disrupting implantation. However, many women who have fibroids or polyps can become pregnan

– Endometriosis scarring or inflammation within the uterus can disrupt implantation.

– Uterine abnormalities present from birth, such as an abnormally shaped uterus, can cause problems becoming or remaining pregnant.

– Cervical stenosis, a cervical narrowing, can be caused by an inherited malformation or damage to the cervix.
– Sometimes the cervix can’t produce the best type of mucus to allow the sperm to travel through the cervix into the uterus.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

Sarah L. Hosker

Author: Sarah L. Hosker

Sarah Hosker is a paralegal in Chicago, Illinois. Her interest in raising pregnancy awareness sparked when, in the summer of 2009, she learned of the passing of her niece less than a month before her due date. Together with friends and family, she Co-founded Project Alive & Kicking (PAK).

Sarah is committed to volunteer work in the community and is an active member of The Junior League. She also enjoys traveling, beachcombing, antiquing, visiting museums, photography, following the English Premier League and is a fan of the University of Georgia (UGA) football team. Sarah recently relocated to Chicago, Illinois with her fiancé, Ali.

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