Aspiring parents have an array of options at their disposal
According to the Centers for Disease Control, infertility is described as a couple’s inability to become pregnant after one year of trying to conceive without the use of any contraception. Although some young couples may actually become pregnant into their second year of trying, women in their late 30s and older have a more difficult time trying to conceive.
With a constant growth in medical technologies, fertility treatments around the world have increased as well. Most recently, a Romanian woman, Adriana Illiescu, age 67, gave birth to a baby girl. She went through several fertility treatments and even used egg and sperm donors to facilitate the birth.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the estimated number of women ages 15-44 with an impaired ability to have children was 6.1 million in 1995. An average woman’s egg supply decreases after her late 30s and into her 40s. Sadly, the risk of miscarriage also increases at this time. Luckily for men, although their sperm count decreases, virility overall is not affected much with age.
Causes of infertility can vary greatly from one person to the next and can occur in both men and women. The leading causes for both sexes include substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases (specifically gonorrhea and chlamydia) and hormonal issues.
For women, 40 percent of infertility problems are during ovulation. Other issues include blocked fallopian tubes or problems with the uterine lining, which can result from endometriosis, a condition which can cause severe pain and discomfort.
As for men, the most common problems related to infertility are varicoceles, similar to varicose veins but in the testicles, which produces low sperm count. While varicoceles can be treated as an outpatient procedure, the sperm might also be misshapen, which can hinder their ability to penetrate the egg and form an embryo. Although not as common as female infertility problems, men also have to take several factors into consideration if they hope to have children. Hormonal problems and severe injury to the reproductive organs can also cause problems when trying to conceive, but treatment can be administered if detected early.
With all of these factors weighing against a couple, both should be tested for problems to maximize the chances of success. Recently, there has been a trend in the number of couples that seek professional help for fertility. Although some couples may not immediately require the assistance, as people are waiting longer to have children, many feel they need the help. However, according to the American Fertility Association, couples should determine their ideal time to try and conceive rather than immediately jump into infertility treatments. This results in less cost for the couple and less invasive procedures for both as well.
Unfortunately, infertility has no physical indications. There are, however, a few things they can control in order to maximize their chances of reproductive success.
One of the first things any person can control is tobacco and substance abuse. Both can reduce sperm count and female fertility, as well as a host of other issues. Intense exercise for long periods of time can also adversely affect a man’s sperm count as well as a female’s ovulation.
For a couple trying to get pregnant, the pair can start in the home by figuring out when ovulation begins, based on menstruation. By doing this, a woman can best determine when an egg is being released to offer the highest likelihood of becoming pregnant.
She can also measure her basal body temperature (BBT). The BBT is the lowest possible body temperature that a healthy, fit person can be during a day. This temperature actually rises shortly after ovulation, and if monitored for the full cycle, a woman can roughly determine her ovulation schedule for the greatest chance of becoming pregnant. Additionally, home ovulation kits are available to calculate fertility levels by measuring the amount of hormones present in a small urine sample and can be found at your local drugstore.
Nearly 9 million women who visited their doctor to receive some sort of infertility service in 1995. As the numbers continue to rise, a couple should only seriously consider seeing a doctor if they have been unable to conceive after trying for over a year without the use of any contraception. Also, a woman over the age of 35, or a woman who has had three or more miscarriages should certainly see a doctor about methods to help create and prolong a pregnancy. Infertility testing through the physician can also determine the obstacles the couple will have to clear before becoming pregnant. However, these tests can be painful and expensive. They can also create more stress for the couple rather than relieve tension and may also lead to counseling down the road. It is often a good idea to speak with a mental health professional when infertility issues continue to arise in a relationship. It can not only create a strain on the couple, but can also lead to breaks in the relationship.
A couple must discuss in earnest how far they would both like to pursue the testing and possible treatments. Since most insurance companies do not cover the costs of infertility treatments, alternatives to the treatments are also something to consider. The American Fertility Association suggests starting with in-home treatments before consulting with a doctor on surgical treatments.
There are myriad treatments available to try and find a way around infertility, ranging from drug treatments to surgical operations. Many couples simply need a little help in their quest to have a child, while others may require more medical intervention.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) involves combining the egg and sperm outside of the body and later inserting the fertilized egg directly into the female’s uterus. This can be an important treatment option for women with damaged or absent fallopian tubes. It can work well if the uterine lining, the endometrium, is receptive to the egg and is creating enough hormones to support it.
Care must be taken, however, because multiple eggs are generally placed into the uterus to create a greater chance of pregnancy, which can sometimes result in multiple births. Since the advent of IVF, chances of having twins and triplets with the procedure has increased. Couples should be prepared for this before going in for the treatment. Artificial insemination is a different procedure that places sperm directly into the cervix or uterus. Also known as intrauterine insemination, it is done while a woman is ovulating. The procedure aids the sperm in traveling through the fallopian tubes to fertilize the egg as it drops into the uterus.
For women who have had to undergo a hysterectomy or have had problems carrying a baby to term, surrogacy is an option to consider. This involves implanting an embryo inside the uterus of a woman who is capable of sustaining the baby. The process of choosing or deciding on surrogacy can be a difficult procedure, and is also something to discuss with the physician if other options for treatment have already been ruled out.
Risks involved There are some risks involved with fertility treatments just as with any surgical procedure. Birth defects increase with IVF, as do lower birth weights, but a direct reason for these effects has not yet been determined.
Another important risk is depression for one or both partners. Speaking to a counselor about problems associated during the treatments is a good idea for the couple. This can be especially helpful when the couple is having a difficult time conceiving and the stress levels reach their highest.
Adopting a child is a great option for any couple. Adoption may be one of the last options to consider, but it should be given some thought during the fertility treatments. Although adopting a child can also take time and money, the end result can be the family a couple dreamed of having. H