Months of Disappointment? The Signs of Infertility and a Look at Your Options
So many of us have the perfect picture of a “white picket fence” type of life. We grow up expecting to fall in love, get married, and have babies at will. The movies make it look that easy.
Then we grow up and things don’t go according to plan. For someone whose most powerful drive in their adult life is to have children, a streak of negative pregnancy tests can take a toll.
How do you know if you’ve reached a point when you should be concerned? When do you cross the line from “trying to get pregnant” to “infertile”?
Signs of Infertility
It’s a question that crosses most people’s minds when they’re trying to conceive: how long should it take? Here are some signs you might have a fertility problem.
Negative Pregnancy Tests
When it comes down to it, the only true sign of infertility is an inability to get pregnant. The rule of thumb is that if you’ve been trying to conceive for twelve months without success, you may have fertility issues.
Keep in mind that there are right and wrong ways to try to get pregnant. Timing is everything. For those twelve months, you need to have sex during the prospective mother’s ovulation window. If you do this and you still don’t get pregnant, it’s time to see your doctor.
Known Risk Factors
While you shouldn’t be worried unless you’ve been trying to conceive for twelve months, there are some risk factors that can give you hints too. Certain reproductive conditions have a risk of infertility.
The most common risk factors include endometriosis or its symptoms, polycystic ovary syndrome, and sexually transmitted infections. If you have any of these conditions, you are more prone to infertility.
Of course, there are plenty of people with these conditions who conceive and carry children with ease. Your risk factors can warn you of potential issues, but the only true indicator of fertility problems is a year of trying to conceive without success.
Options for Infertility
If you do have signs of fertility problems, what can you do about it?
First of all, there is no hopeless cause. There is always hope for starting a family in one way or another, whether or not your child has your genes.
With that in mind, your options will depend on the reason for your infertility. Here’s a look at the potential road ahead.
If you have signs of infertility, the first step is always medical testing. Your doctor will run tests on both you and your partner to find out why you haven’t been able to conceive. Those test results will tell you which of the following options are most likely to succeed.
Sometimes infertility comes from an underlying medical condition. In most cases, these are reproductive conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or certain infections.
However, anything from hormonal imbalances to nutritional defects can play a role. In these cases, treating the underlying medical condition often improves your fertility.
Sometimes a woman’s body doesn’t release eggs the way it should, and this happens for many reasons. Often, fertility medications can solve this problem.
These treatments stimulate the mother’s egg release so that there are eggs available for the sperm to fertilize. They’re typically at-home injectable medications.
Sometimes the mother’s eggs are fine but the sperm aren’t able to reach them. This often happens when the father has a low sperm count or low sperm motility.
In these cases, your doctor can help the sperm along by placing them into the uterus so they can reach the eggs. This is called intrauterine insemination, or IUI.
In Vitro Fertilization
In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is one of the most common ways to treat infertility. It can be the answer for a wide range of fertility problems, like issues with the fallopian tubes, endometriosis, PCOS, low sperm count, and low sperm motility.
During IVF, the doctor will gather eggs from the mother and sperm from the father. The sperm will fertilize the eggs outside the womb, and the doctor will implant those fertilized eggs into the uterus.
Sperm or Egg Donation
All of the treatments above focus on problems with the process of conception. In some cases, though, there is a problem with the sperm or the egg that makes those treatments unsuccessful.
When this happens, a sperm or egg donation can be a helpful choice. The process is the same as IVF, but you use a donor’s sperm or a donor’s egg instead. The doctor implants those donor-fertilized eggs into the mother’s uterus to carry out the pregnancy.
For some couples, the sperm and the egg are healthy but there are other issues that prevent a healthy pregnancy. It may be an issue with the mother’s anatomy or with her overall health.
Surrogacy is a powerful option in these situations. Your doctor will begin the process like an IVF cycle, getting the mother’s eggs and the father’s sperm and fertilizing the eggs. Instead of placing the fertilized eggs into the mother’s uterus, though, the doctor implants them in the surrogate’s uterus.
For most people, at least one of the treatments above will be an option. However, none of them guarantee success. For many people, the choice that suits them best is adoption.
As rewarding as it is to have a child with your natural genes, it’s just as rewarding to know you’ve given a loving home to a child without one.
Dealing with Infertility
The fear of infertility crosses most people’s minds as they start trying to have a baby. You’re worried that your dream of raising a family will never happen, and that stress can add serious pressure to the process.
It’s important that you stay calm and relaxed. Be patient and if you reach your twelfth month of unsuccessfully trying to conceive, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Remember that even if you have fertility problems, chances are that you have a treatment option.