Deciding to have a baby is usually an exciting moment for a family. But sometimes, couples have trouble getting or staying pregnant. If pregnancy just isn’t happening for you, it may be time to talk to your healthcare provider about infertility.
The CDC states that almost 10% of women in the U.S. will have trouble getting or staying pregnant at some point during their childbearing years. Infertility doesn’t mean that pregnancy won’t ever happen for you. For most couples, there are treatments available to help you have a baby. Let’s learn a little bit more about infertility and the main ways to treat it.
What does infertility mean?
You’re considered infertile if you’ve been having unprotected sex for at least a year and have not been able to get pregnant. If you’re older than 35, you should see your healthcare provider after 6 months of trying. You may also have infertility if you’ve been able to get pregnant but suffered a miscarriage.
What causes infertility in women?
The process of getting pregnant in the first place involves quite a few steps. First, the ovaries release an egg that travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. Then, sperm must meet the egg and fertilize it. And lastly, the fertilized egg has to implant itself into the uterus. If there’s a problem that interferes with any of these steps, pregnancy won’t happen.
Many different things can cause infertility. Most problems with infertility happen when there’s an issue with ovulation. Hormonal disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and thyroid issues, cysts, and eating disorders can all disrupt ovulation.
Some other causes of female infertility are:
- Abnormalities in the uterus like polyps or fibroids that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall.
- Damage to the fallopian tubes that blocks an egg and sperm from meeting or from making their way to the uterus.
- Chemotherapy that damages the ovaries
- Early menopause (before age 40)
Unfortunately, sometimes there’s no cause for infertility. When this happens, it’s called unexplained infertility.
What are the treatments for infertility in women?
There are several treatments available to help you get pregnant depending on what’s causing your infertility. Sometimes, you’ll need more than one kind of treatment. Even if you have unexplained infertility, certain treatments may help you conceive.
Recommended treatment options may include:
- Lifestyle changes
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
- In vitro fertilization (IVF)
Some simple changes can go a long way in helping with conception. Things like eating a healthy diet, maintaining your weight, and exercising can improve your chances of getting and staying pregnant. If you smoke or use illegal drugs, you should quit. And try to reduce or stop drinking alcohol altogether.
If you’re not getting pregnant because of poor ovulation, medications can stimulate ovulation and force your ovaries to release an egg. Drugs used to stimulate ovulation include clomiphene citrate, aromatase inhibitors, and gonadotropins. These medications are given when you’re not ovulating at all or if your ovulation is irregular. This form of treatment is often used in combination with other infertility options. Keep in mind, one of the risks of ovulation stimulating drugs is a higher chance for a multiple pregnancy.
An imbalance in hormones can also affect your ability to get pregnant. Your healthcare provider can prescribe medications to balance your hormones and increase your chances of conceiving.
If there are any physical abnormalities in the uterus or fallopian tubes, surgery may be an option to correct it. Polyps, cysts, and uterine fibroids can be surgically removed. And blocked or damaged fallopian tubes can be repaired. Surgery can also remove excess uterine tissue in women with endometriosis.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is when healthy sperm is inserted into the uterus around the time of ovulation. IUI is often used in combination with ovulation stimulating drugs.
In Vitro Fertilization
During in vitro fertilization (IVF), sperm is combined with an egg in a lab to create an embryo. The embryo is then transferred into the woman’s uterus a few days later. IVF is done in cycles and it can take multiple cycles to get a successful pregnancy. Most IVF uses a couple’s own sperm and eggs, but a donor sperm or egg can be used if needed. The risk of a multiple pregnancy is higher with IVF but your healthcare provider may limit the number of embryos transferred to prevent this from happening.
IVF is also used when a gestational carrier is needed. Some women can’t carry a child themselves. IVF allows the implantation of the couple’s fertilized egg into the uterus of another woman, called the gestational carrier.
Infertility is not something that only women experience. Men can have problems with infertility too. Some causes of infertility in men are a blockage or damage in the testicles, cancer and cancer treatments, erectile dysfunction, and abnormal or low sperm production. A low sperm count can be the result of genetics, smoking, STD’s, and certain health conditions, like diabetes.
What are the treatments for infertility in men?
Your healthcare provider can help determine what’s causing your infertility. Based on your diagnosis, some treatment options for men include:
- Lifestyle changes – quit smoking, exercise, eliminating harmful substances, and increasing the frequency of intercourse.
- Antibiotics for STD’s
- Surgery to repair testicular blockages
- Medication for erectile dysfunction
Just like in women, sometimes the causes of infertility in men aren’t known. In cases where male infertility isn’t reversible, sperm can be collected and then used during IUI or IVF treatments. For men looking to supplement their fertility, try Pink Stork’s Men’s Fertility Bundle. Our Men’s Fertility Bundle comes with three products created to support a man’s natural fertility and reproductive wellness.
Treating infertility can be a long and emotional journey. Both women and men can suffer from infertility, and treatments are available based on what’s causing your infertility. Some treatments, like IVF, can be expensive and take more than one cycle to work. Treating infertility takes time so remember not to lose hope if pregnancy doesn’t happen right away.