Deciding to have a baby is a big step. But what happens if you're ready to become a parent and you can't get pregnant? For couples facing infertility, the disappointment can be heartbreaking.
Causes of infertility may involve both the man and the woman, such as:
- Blocked fallopian tubes
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Low sperm count or poor sperm quality
- Pelvic adhesions
- Side effects of cancer treatment
- Uterine fibroids
When should you worry about infertility?
How do you know if your problem is infertility or if you're just having a hard time getting pregnant? You should talk to your doctor about seeing a fertility specialist if:
- You're younger than 35 and have had frequent, unprotected sex without becoming pregnant for one year.
- You're older than 35 and have had frequent, unprotected sex without becoming pregnant for six months.
- You've had problems with fertility in the past that are unresolved.
- You've had pelvic surgery or a sexually transmitted disease that may affect your fertility.
What are the types of infertility treatments?
Treatment options include:
- Artificial insemination – Using either the man's sperm or donated sperm, artificial insemination helps ensure pregnancy by placing the semen directly into the uterus during a simple, outpatient procedure.
- Assisted reproductive technology (A.R.T.) – The most common type of assisted reproductive technology is in vitro fertilization, which involves combining the woman's eggs with the man's sperm in a laboratory and then placing the newly created embryo back into the woman's uterus for pregnancy. Other assisted reproductive technologies include intracytoplasmic sperm injection and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (learning if there are genetic deficiencies in embryos before implanting them in the uterus).
- Fertility medications – Certain medications can be given to the woman to help regulate the menstrual cycle or stimulate ovulation. Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone can also be taken to support the growth of reproductive tissues in the woman.
- Surgery – In some cases, surgery to correct a reproductive problem may be all that's needed to enable a couple to get pregnant. For example, surgery may be performed on the woman to correct congenital (since birth) problems, to open blocked fallopian tubes, to remove fibroids or polyps and to treat endometriosis. Surgery on the man may also be used to correct congenital problems, or to tie off varicose veins, which drain the testicles.