Infertility is a general term for a wide variety of medical conditions that make it hard for couples to have a baby. Problems getting pregnant can come from the woman, the man, or both and a couple may be labeled (I hate labels by the way) infertile when there’s no pregnancy after a year of unprotected sex. Infertility can be stressful, frustrating and depressing for couples and even though statistics say that 1 out of every 10 couples are infertile, 50% of these will go on to carry a baby. That’s good news for you!
So what causes infertility?
In this first of four posts on infertility, I’ll do my best to explain the basics including common causes. But keep in mind that your case must be evaluated by a trained medical professional like Dr. Hessel. Even though it may be tempting, don’t try to diagnose yourself, and try to keep a positive outlook during these trying times.
Problems for Women
Structural problems can include damage that may keep an egg and sperm from joining properly. Common structural problems like endometriosis, scar formation from previous surgeries or damaged fallopian tubes may all be to blame.
Hormonal triggers are less obvious at first and will require testing to identify. Because the female body relies on hormones to signal the release of an egg from the ovaries (ovulation), any changes or problems with the process can shift your fertile days, lengthen the time between periods and make it tricky to find the best time to conceive.
Cervical and uterine malformations make up a smaller number of fertility issues but these can include malformations in the shape or position of the uterus itself, blockages through the cervix from excess mucus production or scar tissue formation from previous surgical procedures.
Problems for Men
About 40% of fertility problems come from the man. Male infertility issues should be evaluated by a urologist. Most testing will evaluate sperm or semen production. Hormonal and genetic tests may also be used but about 97% of men who are infertile have normal hormone levels, so this is a rare cause. Some men have issues with the “plumbing” connecting the area where sperm are produced with the tubing that leads out of the body. These men have plenty of sperm and should be able to father a child once the connection issues are addressed.
Identify your causes and raise your success rates
For about 20% of all infertile couples, a cause is never identified. This can be a frustrating, even heartbreaking reality—but keep your head up because 85% of couples who both get tested will find a cause of their infertility and when a cause is identified, there’s a better chance you will find an appropriate treatment. Are you ready to find out why you can’t conceive? Dr. Barbara Hessel is a leader in infertility treatment and management and welcomes you to her office for personalized care. Come see us soon.