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Infertility – finding a way forward

Infertility is a sensitive issue that can affect both males and females. Most couples want to start a family after a certain amount of time, and having problems conceiving can lead to frustration, stress and anxiety for both parties. Infertility is a serious issue that needs to be addressed as it affects so many people worldwide.

Infertility affects couples who are having regular intercourse for more than a year without a successful pregnancy. According to the Mayo Clinic, fertility issues can be either male or female orientated or a combination of the two.

Female infertility is complex and can be caused by a variety of factors which we will look at. If you are having irregular menstrual cycles or none at all, or very long menstrual cycles of about 35 days or very short ones which would be about 21 days, these would all be signs that there is no ovulation taking place.

It is normal to feel anxious during this time as the struggle to get pregnant can be mentally exhausting and sometimes, it is necessary to go see a doctor depending on your specific age group. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you are under 35 years of age, the consensus among doctors is to keep trying for approximately a year before any further medical investigation should take place. Women between the ages of 35 -40 can continue to try for 6 months and thereafter see a doctor for further assistance. However, if you are over 40 years of age, most doctors would want to start running tests immediately.

According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors would want to start immediate testing and treatment if you have ever suffered from the following:

  • Several miscarriages
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Previous cancer treatment
  • Endometriosis
  • Regular painful periods

There are several steps that need to take place within the female body in order to get pregnant. Ovulation, whereby the ovaries produce, and release eggs, has to take place. Next, ask your doctor to help you recognise when your most fertile time of the month is and ensure that you have regular intercourse during this time. It is also of vital importance that you have both a healthy uterus with no abnormalities and open fallopian tubes.

There are several conditions that can cause infertility, one of them being ovulation disorders and this accounts for 1 in 4 couples being infertile according to the Mayo Clinic.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, polycystic ovary syndrome, which is known as PCOS, is one of the highest causes of infertility amongst women, whereby ovulation is affected by a hormonal imbalance, specifically of the reproductive hormones.

Hypothalamic dysfunction is another cause of infertility. The FSH and LH hormones produced by the pituitary gland are very important in the ovulation process and there are several factors which can affect the production of these hormones such as noticeable weight gain or weight loss as well as high levels of mental and physical stress.

According to the National Fertility Association, premature ovarian failure (POF) can also be defined as early menopause whereby women will experience symptoms such as irregular or no periods, hot flashes as well as vaginal dryness. POF can be directly linked to things such as pelvic surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

If there is damage to the fallopian tubes, this can block the way for the sperm to get to the egg or stop the fertilized egg from getting to the uterus. Damage to the tubes can be caused by pelvic inflammatory disease, STDs, previous abdominal or pelvic surgery or pelvic tuberculosis.

Endometriosis can be painful as according to the Mayo Clinic, tissue that is found lining the inside of the uterus starts to grow outside of the uterus. According to Healthline, this disorder can affect approximately 10% of women and can be the cause of fertility issues.

There are certain things that put you at risk for infertility such as age, the older a woman gets, the amount of eggs that she produces reduces as well as the quality of them thus increasing the risk of miscarriage.

Smoking is also a hazard as it can damage the cervix and fallopian tubes and try to keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. Make sure that you maintain a healthy weight as weighing too little or too much could affect ovulation.

Men also need to check certain things regarding their sexual health in order to make sure that they are not contributing to the infertility issue.

According to the Mayo Clinic men should speak to their doctor if they have problems such as low sperm count, small testicles, prior sexual, prostate or testicular issues, previous treatment for cancer, any swelling in the scrotum or a history of infertility problems in the family.

Male infertility can be caused by problems with the normal production of the sperm which could be a result of health and genetic issues. Other concerns such a premature ejaculation, blockages in the testicles and genetic diseases could affect the correct delivery of the sperm. If men are over exposed to certain things such radiation, cigarettes, alcohol, steroids, this can affect fertility as well as physical and mental health issues such as hypertension and depression.

Men can speak to their doctor if they feel they might have any of the above issues however they can try avoiding a few things such as being exposed to toxins, high temperatures such as hot baths or showers which can all limit sperm production. Regular exercise can possibly help increase the quality of the sperm and speak to your doctor about any medications that you are on and if they would impact fertility in any way.

There are various treatments for infertility and the important thing to remember is that it will all depend on different factors such as age and the complexity of the infertility. It is also necessary to note that these treatments can take both a mental and physical toll on your life and also might cause you some financial burden. It is also important to exercise patience as these treatments can be lengthy and time consuming in order to reach the desired goal thus it is best to sit down and weigh up your options and see what will best suit you and your specific circumstances.

Infertility treatments can include medication, fertility drugs, hormone therapy, fertility assistance such as IVF and surgery. Sometimes one will be used and other times a combination depending on the circumstances. Each comes with their own risks and rewards which you will need to discuss with your doctor in depth.

If you are dealing with infertility, do not give up on being a mother or a father, the best thing to do is visit your doctor if you feel that you have been struggling for a while with no results and see what the problem could be. Once you have discovered the reason for the infertility, then you can map the way forward for you and your partner to get the best treatment and results. You are not alone, and you will find a way forward because where there is a will there is a way.