National Infertility Awareness Week
April 19th through April 25th is National Infertility Awareness Week, in which we unite millions of Americans in order to reduce the stigmas around infertility. The first step to breaking down barriers is education and during this month, we provide resources to educate and make a difference.
What Is Infertility?
Infertility, which affects 8 to 12 percent of couples in the United States, can be described as when a couple cannot conceive after having regular unprotected intercourse. Lastly, it’s important to remember that it can result from an issue with either partner or a combination of things.
The main symptom of infertility is an inability to get pregnant. Sometimes, a woman who is infertile may have an irregular period. In other cases, a man may experience irregularities in hair growth and sexual dysfunction. Most people do not need to consult a doctor unless they have been regularly trying to get pregnant for one year. Women should consider speaking to a doctor earlier if they:
- Are over age 40
- Are age 35 or older and have been trying to conceive for six months
- Have painful periods
- Have been diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis
- Have had multiple miscarriages
- Have undergone treatment for cancer
- Have very painful periods
Men should consult a doctor sooner if they:
- Have small testicles
- Have low sperm count
- Have a history of testicular, prostate, or sexual problems
- Have others in your family with fertility problems
- Have undergone treatment for cancer
- Have other sperm problems
What Causes Infertility?
Infertility can be caused by a number of things. About one-third of the time, infertility can be traced to the woman and in another third, it can be traced to the man. Any damage related to cancer and treatments like radiation or chemotherapy can cause infertility.
Women can experience infertility due to ovulation disorders that affect the release of eggs from the ovaries. Uterine or cervical abnormalities like polyps in the uterus or the uterus shape can also cause infertility. Additionally, if a woman has experience fallopian tube blockage or damage, endometriosis, early menopause, or pelvic adhesions, they may be infertile.
For men, infertility can be caused by abnormal sperm production or function due to undescended testicles, genetic defects, or health problems or infections. Likewise, problems with the delivery of sperm due to sexual problems, genetic diseases, structural problems, or injury to the reproductive organs. Likewise, overexposure to radiation, cigarette smoke, alcohol and marijuana use, anabolic steroids, or taking medications to treat infections, depression, or high blood pressure.
Infertility Risk Factors
There are many risk factors to do with infertility. These include:
- Alcohol use
- Being overweight or underweight
- Lack of or frequent strenuous exercise
- Tobacco use
In order to prevent infertility, there are a number of steps that can be taken. Having regular intercourse several times around ovulation is key to increase one’s rate of pregnancy. Likewise, avoiding drug, tobacco, and alcohol use can reduce your risk of infertility. Lastly, avoiding weight extremes, exercising moderately, and limiting caffeine or medications that may impact fertility is key.
With or without treatment, most couples will eventually conceive. However, many couples chose to treat fertility in a number of ways including medicine, surgery, artificial insemination, or assisted reproductive technology. Depending on your test results, how long you’ve been trying to get pregnant, partner preference, and the health and age of both partners, a doctor may recommend one treatment over another.