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Answers for 4 Key Questions About Infertility

It’s been wisely said: The family is one of nature's masterpieces. Sometimes, though, the steps to starting a family — having a baby — can be a challenge.

For couples that have fertility issues, there are options for enhancing your fertility and starting your family.

What Are the Fertility Statistics?

About 25% of couples become pregnant after one month of trying.
The typical success rate is 60% after six months.
The usual success rate is 85% after one year of trying.

See Tracey and Dan’s story and their welcome of baby Oliver.

What Is Infertility?

  • For women 35 years or younger, infertility is defined as not becoming pregnant after one year of regular unprotected intercourse.
  • For women over age 35, infertility is not becoming pregnant after six months of regular unprotected intercourse.
  • 35% of fertility problems are male issues.
  • 35% of fertility problems are female issues.
  • 20% of fertility problems are issues with both partners.
  • 5-10% are unexplained.
  • 80% to 90% of causes of infertility can be traced to specific causes.
  • Ovulation issues such as irregular ovulation are the most common fertility problems.

These days, many women are making a choice to have a family later in life. This decision has a number of benefits but also has issues.

One aspect of waiting to have a baby is the increased potential for fertility problems. A woman’s fertility naturally begins to slowly decline starting in her early 30s. After 37, the reduction in fertility is more pronounced. If you find yourself delaying having a baby until your mid-to-late 30s or after, consider having some of your eggs retrieved and frozen for when the time is right. Sperm can also be retrieved and frozen for later use in case, for example, a medical treatment might affect fertility.

How Can You Enhance Fertility?

Here are some important steps couples can take to enhance fertility.

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Minimize alcohol and caffeine consumption. Limits should be one alcohol drink over a few days and one or two caffeinated drinks per day. Once pregnant, alcohol use should be stopped.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. A body mass index 35 or less is recommended. Being overweight or obese can dramatically reduce the chances of becoming pregnant. Cutting carbohydrate and sugar intake can help reduce weight and improve your chances for conception.
  • Reduce your consumption of foods that are grown using pesticides or growth hormones.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Engage in regular moderate exercise.
  • Use a fertility monitor to track the best time of the month to conceive. Smartphone apps are available that can help track ovulation. Ask your health care professional for recommendations.
  • Women with male partners should engage in unprotected sexual intercourse 2-3 times per week in an attempt to optimize their chance for fertility. While attempts can be made to better time the episodes of intercourse using ovulation predictor kits, basal body temperature charts or evaluation of the woman's cervical mucous, the emphasis should be on trying to have two to three episodes of intercourse per week irrespective of cycle timing. This recommendation is based on the knowledge that normal sperm should be able to survive in a woman's cervix and uterus for up to 3-4 days.

It’s important to note that smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption, and a diet that includes foods grown using pesticides and growth hormones may affect male fertility as well.

What If These Steps Don’t Help?

If you’ve been trying the recommended conception practices without success, see a reproductive endocrinologist — a fertility specialist — and have a complete fertility evaluation soon. A fertility specialist, such as those at Aurora Health Care, can help you explore and try new approaches that are tailored to your individual needs.

New techniques, such as genetic screening, can help identify possible problems in both female and male fertility. Supplements and hormone treatments can enhance fertility. Medications such as clomid, letrozole/femara or metformin/glucophage may be prescribed.

We’re finding acupuncture, yoga and other holistic approaches can also aid fertility.

Additional Treatment Options

In vitro fertilization can be used when other options aren’t successful. With this treatment, an egg from the mother or an egg donor is retrieved and fertilized with sperm from the father. The fertilized embryo is then transferred to the mother’s womb for the duration of pregnancy.

If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, an experienced reproductive endocrinologist can help you find and correct causes of infertility and work through the options and decisions that are part of the process of enhancing your fertility and taking the next steps toward starting or growing your family.

Meet the Author

Aida Shanti, MD, focuses on obstetrics and gynecology along with reproductive endocrinology at Aurora West Allis Medical Center in West Allis, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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