For some couples, getting pregnant can be difficult. After trying for months with no success it can be emotionally and mentally tax. For some it helps to know that contrary to popular belief, infertility is not uncommon. Better yet, the most important thing to know is that there are several options available to increase your chances of having a child that that can be done personally or at Baptist Health.
First, let’s talk about the medicine behind infertility. Infertility is defined as not having become pregnant after one year of having regular sexual intercourse without the use of birth control. Infertility can be caused by a number of factors. Both male and female factors can contribute to infertility.
What Causes Infertility?
There are many myths and wives-tales about what exactly causes infertility that often mislead couples trying to find honest advice. Here is a brief overview to cover the most basic and common factors:
Infertility can be caused by a number of factors. Both male and female factors can contribute to infertility. Female factors may involve problems with ovulation, the reproductive organs, or hormones. Male factors often involve problems with the amount or health of sperm.
Age plays a large role in infertility. A woman begins life with a fixed number of eggs. This number decreases as she grows older. The chance of pregnancy declines more rapidly after age 37. A man’s fertility also declines with age, but not as predictably.
Lifestyle factors can also play a role in infertility. For women, being underweight, being overweight, or excessive exercise may be associated with infertility. Other factors include drinking alcohol at moderate or heavy levels and smoking may make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant. For men, smoking, heavy drinking, marijuana use, and anabolic steroid use can reduce sperm count and movement. Smoking also can lead to erectile dysfunction.
What steps can you take to help prevent infertility?
If you feel like you may be facing fertility issues, visit your physician for an infertility screening. The first visit usually involves a detailed medical history and a physical exam. During the medical history, you may be asked questions about your menstrual period, abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, pelvic pain, and disorders that can affect reproduction, such as thyroid disease. There are also lab tests, imaging tests, and certain procedures that can go along with infertility evaluations.
Since weight and smoking can heavily contribute to infertility, maintaining a healthy weight and kicking your smoking habit can help increase your fertility levels. You can also time your sexual activity with regard to ovulation cycle. Limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, along with avoiding any unnecessary medications could help increase your chances of fertility.
In some cases, infertility can be treated with the help of medication prescribed to you by your doctor.
Assisted reproductive technologies (ART)
Some people faced with infertility are good candidates for in vitro fertilization (IVF). The process includes fertilization either in the laboratory or in the uterus. While not everyone is a good fit for this procedure, some may find this method effective. Ask your physician for advice when considering this option.
If you are having trouble getting pregnant, speak with your obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) or family physician to determine what steps you may want to take next. If you don’t have a physician, we can help you find an OB/GYN.