Infertility is the inability to conceive a baby or carry to term after 12 months of trying to conceive. In anyone over the age of 35, the time is cut in half to six months of trying to conceive. If you are having problems with infertility or experienced more than one miscarriage you should ask for a referral to a fertility specialist.
Infertility can affect men or women, so testing of both may be required before treatment can be started. In men, infertility can be due to low sperm count, abnormal sperm function or blockages, or other illnesses or injuries. Testing for male infertility typically begins with a general examination and semen analysis. Semen analysis looks at the sperm count, shape, motility, and any abnormalities. If this test comes back normal more thorough female tests will most likely begin before going into more testing on the male partner. Female testing can consist of ovulation testing by using a calendar to monitor cycles and testing with over the counter (OTC) ovulation kits to see if you are ovulating, hysterosalpingography (a detailed X-ray of the uterus), ovarian reserve testing, and other hormone testing may all be completed.
Treatment of Infertility
Treatment of fertility can be very complicated as it depends on many factors, such as age, cause of infertility, and cost. Women who are infertile due to ovulation issues commonly take oral medications that act like hormones in the body to restore ovulation. Some of these medications include: Clomiphene Citrate, Gonadotropins, Metformin, Letrozole, and Bromocriptine. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) procedures can also be done for women who have unexplained fertility issues or problems with cervical mucous. IUI is completed by placing sperm directly into the woman’s uterus, usually with ovulation stimulating medications and is performed at the time of ovulation. The sperm is “washed” to separate out all motile sperm and remove any toxic chemicals that could cause harm to the uterus. Other, more expensive and sophisticated therapies are referred to as Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). This includes options such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT), embryo cryopreservation, egg or embryo donation, and gestational carriers.
IVF involves removing egg(s) from the female ovary, fertilizing them with semen, incubating the cells in a laboratory dish and replacing them in the uterus. ZIFT occurs when a fertilized egg is transferred into the Fallopian tubes.
Infertility can be overwhelming and stressful for many patients. Many individuals report it is the beginning of the most stressful times of their lives. It is important that you find a health care provider that you trust and get on treatment options that you are comfortable with. Remember you are not alone, millions suffer from this and it is usually temporary. Support groups, keeping a journal, open communication with your partner and family, stress management techniques, and allowing yourself time to grieve are all normal ways of coping with fertility.
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