About 12 percent of couples in America today are infertile. Medical infertility is defined when pregnancy has not occurred after one year of unprotected intercourse. Causes include higher instances of sexually infectious diseases, delayed childbearing and increased exposure to environmental toxins. Couples dealing with infertility ride a monthly roller coaster of waiting, hoping and disappointment.
When investigating infertility, there are four questions that doctors try to answer.
- Is there ovulation?
- Are there enough sperm?
- Can egg and sperm meet?
- Can implantation occur?
There are numerous subtle factors in the fertility of a woman that make diagnosis and treatment complicated and time-consuming. Keeping this in mind, a sperm analysis is often done on the male partner first. Much information about the viability of the sperm and their affect on fertility can be explored quite easily. For women, the doctor will perform full physical and pelvic examinations. Blood tests will also be done to check hormone levels. And, to check ovulation, the doctor will explain how to plot basal body temperature. By charting the rise and fall of your temperature, ovulation can be pinpointed.
COMMON CAUSES OF INFERTILITY IN WOMEN
- surgical adhesions (bands of scar tissue that bind together after surgery or after infections) can restrict the movement of the ovaries and fallopian tubes
- lowered hormone levels (can cause failure to ovulate)
- blockage of the fallopian tubes
- pelvic inflammatory disease
- implantation failure due to low progesterone levels
- fibroid tumors, in rare cases, can cause infertility by interfering with the uterine lining, blocking fallopian tubes or altering the position of the cervix
Ovulation problems are often approached with drug therapy to stimulate ovulation, which can lead to multiple births. Assisted reproductive technologies are becoming more and more successful. Artificial insemination places the sperm directly into the uterus. Depending on the situation, the husband’s or donor sperm may be used. In-vitro fertilization (IVF) places sperm and eggs together in a laboratory dish where fertilization may occur. Then if embryos result they are placed in the uterus for possible implantation. Gamete/zygote intrafallopian transfer (GIFr/ZIFT) are adaptations of IVF. With only slight differences both procedures harvest the eggs, mix them with the sperm and inject or implant the mixture in the fallopian tubes.
TO INCREASE CHANCES OF PREGNANCY:
- avoid alcohol and marijuana
- quit smoking
- exercise regularly eat nutritious, well-balanced meals
- keep your weight within healthy limits
- cut down on caffeine
- avoid water-soluble jelly lubricants (some may contain spermicide)
- avoid douching after intercourse
SUPPORT FOR INFERTILITY
RESOLVE, Inc., 1310 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144
This organization provides names of fertility specialists, newsletters, the latest in-depth information about clinical and adoption issues, and offers local support groups.