For couples who struggle to conceive and have a child, it can be a long and emotionally draining process to start a family.
April 21-28 is National Infertility Awareness Week. Researchers from the National Infertility Association want to reduce the stigma surrounding infertility and provide information about reproductive health and issues.
Mazen Abdallah, MD, assistant professor with McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), suggests 7 things people should know about infertility.
How to define infertility
Infertility occurs if a couple has had unprotected intercourse at least two to three times a week for a year and are not pregnant.
For couples in which the female is 35 or older, infertility occurs six months of unsuccessful attempts to conceive.
Most of the time, there is caused by health issues in one of the partners. About 25% of the time, there is a condition with both partners.
What causes infertility
The two most common reasons for infertility are the female is not ovulating and the male’s sperm count is too low.
The researcher suggests that there are some “home tests” to check whether the woman is ovulating.
A man’s normal sperm count is at least 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen, with 40% of the sperm moving.
When using over-the-counter sperm tests, a man who receives an abnormal result should repeat the test after two to four weeks.
He should see a specialist to identify the cause of the abnormality i the repeat semen analysis shows abnormal results.
Taking testosterone can decrease sperm count
Research shows that men diagnosed with low testosterone are often prescribed testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
But this treatment can shut down sperm production.
This is because when a man takes testosterone replacement, the brain would sense a high level of testosterone and would decrease a hormone involved in making sperm.
Men can try halting TRT and continuing efforts to try to conceive.
If sperm production does not recover completely after TRT use, the couple may need fertility treatment.
Young professionals are more likely to freeze their eggs
Many young professionals and students are choosing to freeze their eggs as they approach age 30 and beyond.
This is because they want to have kids later, and want to go ahead and preserve the quality of their eggs.
Sometimes, women do it simply because they haven’t met the person they want to spend the rest of their life with yet.
In addition, freezing eggs can be an option for women dealing with cancer or other diseases.
These diseases require treatments that may harm fertility.
Past medical procedures may affect your fertility
Sometimes past medical procedures may affect people’s fertility, without them knowing it.
For example, surgical treatment for endometriosis can negatively impact fertility.
Other health conditions and treatments that could impact fertility include ovarian cysts, fibroid surgery, appendix surgery, sexually transmitted diseases, cancer, and eating disorders.
IVF has been better now
The researcher suggests that in the early days of IVF, the success rates were low mainly due to the inability to properly grow embryos in culture.
As culture techniques improved, the number of transferred embryos gradually decreased.
Currently, doctors transfer one embryo at a time. In women age 37 or younger, we can have remarkable success.
For women age 35 or younger, using IVF is linked to a 40% chance of having a baby.
When to see a doctor
The researcher suggests that couples attempting conception need to have intercourse at least two to three times a week, especially during the middle of the woman’s cycle.
Frequency is more important than trying to have intercourse while the woman is ovulating.
If a year has passed and the couple is not pregnant, they should see a doctor. If the woman is 35 or older, they should seek help after six months of trying.