Infertility: The Modern-Day Epidemic?

The New York Times reports that an estimated 10 – 20% of couples are unable to conceive after one year of trying to become pregnant, leaving them with the uncomfortable and troubling realization that they may in fact be infertile.

Although a diagnosis of infertility can cause strong emotions like depression and anxiety, many couples still realize the dream of having a family. Getting a professional diagnosis is the first step towards resolving the problem. A doctor can offer the best recommendations on how to successfully conceive.

Defining Infertility

Often labeled as a modern-day epidemic, the term infertility describes the inability to conceive a pregnancy after at least one year of unprotected sex. The likelihood of a healthy couple under the age of 30 getting pregnant is only 25 – 30% per month. As a woman ages beyond 35, the likelihood of getting pregnant drops to less than 10% per month. In an increasingly career-driven society, more couples are delaying marriage and starting families later in life, thus running into trouble conceiving becomes more of a reality.

Male Infertility vs. Female Infertility

Causes for infertility in couples are divided nearly equally on both parties. Approximately 30 – 40% of all infertility is due to male factors such as retrograde ejaculation, when semen is redirected to the urinary bladder, or impotence, hormone deficiency, or decreased sperm count. Factors like drug use, smoking, and drinking affect the healthy production of sperm in males.

Women can experience infertility from a lack of regular ovulation, poor nutrition leading to a woman being under or overweight, hormonal imbalance, ovarian cysts, pelvic infections, tumors in the reproduction system, or issues with the transport system for sperm through the cervix, womb and fallopian tubes.

Spotting the Signs

Male infertility does not display overt symptoms and would require medical tests, however there are some warning signs both men and women.

1) Irregular menstrual cycles are a strong indication of fertility trouble. However, there are medications that help hormonal imbalance and promote ovulation.

2) Menstrual cycles being unstable in flow and length. For example, heavy one month and then lighter the next or varying in how short or long your period lasts.

3) If there is trouble maintaining an erection or ejaculating, a visit to specialist can help. Many men may be embarrassed to admit their troubles in the bedroom, but facing the issue will be the first step in getting help with conceiving.

4) Although miscarrying is common, experiencing three consecutive miscarriages is an indication of possible infertility.

5) Undiagnosed sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can lead to infertility in women, so getting a full sexual screening is recommended. STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause inflammation and blockages of the fallopian tubes. This can cause infertility or putting a pregnancy at risk of miscarriage. Neither of these STDs exhibits symptoms.

How to Resolve Infertility Problems

If a couple has been trying to conceive for over a year, it is advised that they seek help from a medical specialist. According to research, a root cause can be uncovered for about 85 to 90% of infertility cases. Appropriate medical attention allows couples to conceive in 50 to 60% cases. There are also advanced techniques such as in vitro fertilization and the use of sperm banks in cases of male infertility. Even though this is considered a modern epidemic, there is help available for those who need it.

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