Many women and couples who have stopped birth control for over a year visit their physicians perplexed why they have not conceived yet. The emotional impact of infertility can be one of the most distressing life crises experienced.
Finding the leading cause of infertility can be a long and challenging process. Female or male factors can be the cause of fertility problems, or possibly a combination of both.
Infertility in Women
Physicians will run a host of tests to evaluate if their female patient has ovulation problems, has blocked fallopian tubes, uterine fibroids, or has lifestyle challenges. The physician will also recommend treatments or lifestyle changes to correct the situation. Also, women can’t exclude age-related reasons for infertility.
Ovulation problems can include primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
- POI is when a woman’s ovaries stop working as they should. A woman’s genetics, autoimmune diseases, infections, family history, or other medical regimens like chemotherapy are usually behind the POI condition.
Treatment for POI would include hormone replacement therapy. There have been cases when a woman’s ovaries begin functioning again without treatment.
- PCOS is a hormone imbalance. A woman’s genetics or environmental issues are generally to blame for PCOS.
Physicians may prescribe different medications and treatments for PCOS depending on the condition’s underlying cause. Hormone replacement therapy and lifestyle changes are the predominant treatments.
- Blocked ovarian tubes will prevent the woman’s egg from moving from the ovaries to the uterus. Other structural problems with a woman’s uterus will also interfere with a woman’s ability to conceive.
Physicians have improved the results of surgeries for blocked ovarian tubes, and other structural problems women may have that would prevent conception.
Other options are available to women who wish to avoid surgery. Depending on a woman’s physical situation, physicians have cases when non-invasive procedures have corrected the problems allowing fertilization. Another option for women would be in vitro fertilization.
- Uterine fibroids can cause pain, abnormal bleeding, and difficulty conceiving.
The only cure for uterine fibroids is a hysterectomy, but scientists are exploring other solutions to preserve a woman’s ability to bear children.
- Lifestyle choices can have a tremendous impact on fertility issues. Women can assert themselves by paying attention to body weight, nutrition, physical activity, and avoiding harmful lifestyle exposures that can contribute to infertility.
If a woman is overweight or underweight, her estrogen levels can be altered, influencing her ovulation. If a woman fuels her body with the proper nutrients, her reproductive system will perform at its best.
Research has determined a strong correlation between fertilization and the frequency, intensity, and duration of exercise. Studies have shown that moderate exercise is best for the reproductive system and that strenuous exercise reduces progesterone–a hormone essential for pregnancy.
Women exposed to smoking (first hand or second-hand smoke), environmental toxins, consuming alcohol, and suffering from chronic stress reduce their ability to have a successful pregnancy.
Men and Infertility
Men have contributing reasons for infertility, and they can experience problems with how their reproductive organs function. Physicians will need to determine if the man is experiencing physical problems that hinder the sperm count or if the quality of the sperm is a factor.
Physicians have successfully provided men with hormone treatment and surgical procedures and have encouraged behavior changes to remedy their problems.
Lifestyle choices are just as important to men as women to overcome fertility problems. Men also need to pay attention to their weight, nutrition, exercise, and exposure to toxins.
New technology is becoming available for men and women, and the success rates for fertility are improving. Physicians are exploring areas to preserve sperm and eggs through freezing for future use and fertilizing eggs with sperm outside the womb for implants.
Treating infertility problems can be costly. If health insurance does not cover the expense, patients rely on cash, loans, and family financial contributions. There are nonprofit organizations such as the Pay It Forward Fertility Foundation and the Tinina Q Cade Foundation that provide programs to assist with the cost of fertility procedures.
Families have more opportunities than ever to conceive in the present day than they ever have in history. The scientific communities continue to build on their research and present more hope for those who wish to conceive.