Infertility affects both men and women
Infertility affects both men and women. Male infertility can be attributed to testicular abnormalities and declining sperm counts. Infertility in women is largely attributed to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), egg quality and quantity, endometriosis, hormonal imbalance, blocked tubes, or unhealthy body weight. Lifestyle factors such as age, weight, and activity level often play a large role in fertility. STDs and STIs damage reproductive organs, increasing the likelihood of infertility.
When is it time to start treatments?
Starting fertility treatments largely depends on the age of the mother. For women under the age of 35, the general recommendation is to seek out medical intervention after a year of trying to conceive. For women over the age of 35, the timeline is shortened to 6 months. If a woman experiences irregular periods, endometriosis, PCOS, or has already had multiple miscarriages, seeking help right away is recommended. Women with a family history of early menopause or premature ovarian failure do not need to wait before seeing a doctor.
Women should start by seeing an OB/GYN before moving onto a reproductive endocrinologist. The OB/GYN may find that the infertility causes are simple and can be treated in the office. If the causes seem to be a bit more complex, the woman will be referred to a fertility specialist. The fertility specialist or endocrinologist will run basic tests and determine a treatment plan. Men should start with a urologist before moving onto a fertility specialist.
What are the treatment options?
There are multiple treatment options available. Fertility treatment options can be categorized into 3 methods: lifestyle and medication, intrauterine insemination (IUI), or assisted reproductive technologies (ART). Obesity, eating disorders, alcohol or drug consumption, and physical fitness can affect the viability of the egg and sperm. Unhealthy lifestyle factors can hinder the ability to carry the pregnancy to term. Fertility treatments can be used to stimulate ovulation and increase the chance of conception.
What is IUI?
IUI involves collection of the sperm and insertion into the uterus. This procedure can be done in a medical office or from the comfort of home. Many medical offices will offer genetic testing as an extra way to increase chances of a successful pregnancy. If the cause of fertility is male-related, using sperm donors is a viable option.
What is ART?
ART involves handling the sperm, egg, and embryos outside of the body. This includes egg harvesting, sperm collection, and embryo implantation. The most common form of ART is in vitro fertilization (IVF). During IVF, eggs are fertilized in a lab using sperm, and the embryo is then implanted into the uterus. ART can involve donor eggs, donor sperm, or both. Cryopreservation and surrogacy are additional forms of ART.
When to start treatment
Barring more severe medical reasons, women under the age of 35 need to be trying to conceive for a year prior to seeking medical intervention. Women over the age of 35 should try for 6 months before going to see a doctor. Age and infertility go hand-in-hand due to sperm and egg viability, which decreases with parental age. Treatment options may include lifestyle changes, fertility drugs, IUI, or ART. For any concerns surrounding starting a family, talk to a healthcare provider.