What causes infertility?
Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after at least 12 months of unprotected sex. If you have trouble conceiving, you’re not alone: about 10-15% of couples in the U.S. are infertile.
The causes of infertility are varied. Sometimes they are rooted in a medical issue within the female partner, the male partner, or both partners. Some common causes of infertility are:
- Endometriosis. When endometrial tissue grows in areas outside the uterus, which can disrupt the function of the ovaries and fallopian tubes
- Tubal obstruction. When the fallopian tubes are damaged or blocked in some way
- Premature ovarian failure. A condition where the ovaries lose proper function before the age of 40
- Pelvic inflammatory disease. An often symptom-free condition in which bacteria, usually from an STD, spreads from the vagina to the rest of the reproductive organs
- Advanced maternal age. Refers to any woman who is trying to conceive after the age of 35
- Male factor infertility. Infertility that is based on problems with the man’s sperm quality
- Hydrosalpinx. When a fallopian tube is blocked and filled with fluid
- PCOS. A hormonal condition that affects all aspects of the reproductive cycle
- Recurrent abortion or recurrent miscarriages. The experience of three or more consecutive pregnancy losses before the fetus reaches about 20 weeks
In some cases, women also have unexplained infertility, which means the physician can’t find a root cause.
What tests do I need?
Since the causes of infertility are many, your physician might recommend different tests. These may include:
- Ovulation assessment
- Hormone assessment
- Imaging tests (like a pelvic ultrasound or tubal dye study aka “hysterosalpingogram”)
- Chromosomal screening
- Laparoscopy (a procedure that uses a fiberoptic camera to enable your physician to see inside the abdomen and pelvis)
- Hysteroscopy (a test that fiberoptically looks for disease in the uterus)
- Semen analysis
How is infertility treated?
As a complex condition, infertility is treated on an individual basis. Possible treatments might include:
- Fertility drugs. These help to improve the process of ovulation.
- Intrauterine insemination. This is a procedure that plants healthy sperm into your uterus around the time that you ovulate.
- Assisted reproductive technology. These techniques involve manipulating both the sperm and the egg outside of your body to achieve implantation.
- Surgery. In some cases, fertility surgery can help sperm reach an egg with more ease.
If infertility is due to the male partner, he may need a different series of treatments, like medication or sperm retrieval, and occasionally surgery to improve your odds of conceiving.
If you have questions about infertility and would like to speak with a qualified OB/GYN, book your appointment at Capital Women’s Care today.