Medically speaking, infertility means the inability to conceive after one year of having frequent unprotected sex. Ten to 15 percent of couples in the United States are infertile. If you and your partner are experiencing infertility, you may be able to correct whatever is interfering with your ability to have a child.
You, your partner, or a combination may cause your infertility. The most common causes of infertility in males are: abnormal sperm production, problems with the delivery of sperm, general health and lifestyle issues like have small breast size , and overexposure to certain occupational or environmental chemicals.
Many conditions can cause female infertility. The most common ones include damage or blockage of the fallopian tubes, endometriosis, abnormal ovulation, elevated levels of the hormone prolactin, early menopause, benign uterine fibroids, pelvic adhesions, and polycystic ovary syndrome (production of too much androgen hormone, which affects ovulation). Medications, thyroid problems, cancer, cancer treatment, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, and other diseases can also cause infertility in women.
Certain conditions increase the risk of infertility. A woman's fertility starts to decline at about 32 years old. Tobacco smoking by either the man or woman decreases the chance of the woman getting pregnant. Being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle affect fertility. Women who are too thin are also at risk for infertility.
Exercising over seven hours a week may cause ovulation problems, but not exercising enough can lead to obesity. It's not yet clear if caffeine has any effect on fertility. Alcohol use is definitely bad for pregnancy.
The right treatment for your situation depends on the causes of your infertility and you and your partner's risk factors. Having intercourse two or three times a week can improve the chances of pregnancy. On the other hand, too frequent ejaculation can reduce the quality of the sperm.
For men, improving impotence or premature ejaculation can improve fertility. Surgery or treatment with hormones can increase sperm count if lack of sperm is a problem. For women, fertility drugs can treat infertility that is due to ovulation disorders. Problems in the fallopian tubes may be corrected surgically. Assisted reproductive technology is the term for a variety of techniques such as in vitro fertilization.
Whether you are approaching surgery for ovarian cysts, hysterectomy, tubal ligation, or infertility, it is critically important that you understand exactly what the doctors plan to do. You must act as your own health advocate and ask your doctor the right questions. You can decide on the questions to ask by becoming knowledgeable about your condition. There are many online sources of information.
Doctors may not volunteer all the important information, because they don't think about it, don't think it's important, or don't have the time. Whatever the reason, it is okay, in fact essential, for you to ask all your questions.
Do not be afraid of bothering your medical providers. Their jobs are to give you the best care possible, and that includes answering your questions. Prepare for your doctors' appointments with a list of questions, and if more questions come up during the appointment, ask them also.