A common problem in the U.S., infertility is generally defined as the inability to conceive after a year or longer of unprotected sex. Because it is harder for a woman to conceive as she ages, some doctors may begin providing fertility treatments for women 35 and older after six months of unprotected sex and no pregnancy.
What Are The Different Types of Fertility Treatments?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 6 percent of married women aged 15 to 44 are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying. In addition, about 12 percent of all women in the same age range have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, known as impaired fecundity.
Infertility is not exclusively a female problem. The quality and quantity of a man’s sperm play a role as well.
Causes of Infertility
Infertility can have many causes. In women, the most common issue is lack of ovulation or irregular ovulation. Hormonal problems or problems with the reproductive organs can play a role as well. For example, blockages or scarring of the fallopian tubes as the result of past sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or endometriosis can make it more difficult to become pregnant. Issues with the pituitary gland or the thyroid gland can also pose challenges.
In men, problems with the testes can affect the amount of sperm produced and the health and motility of the sperm.
How Infertility is Treated
Fertility treatments for women vary based on the suspected cause. If a woman is having problems ovulating, her doctor may prescribe medicines like clomiphene, which stimulates the ovaries to release eggs, or metformin, which is used to treat polycystic ovary syndrome. If the cause remains undetermined, treatments may include:
- Hormone injections
- In vitro fertilization (IVF)
- Donor-egg transfer
- Surgery to remove blockages.
And then there are alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, the insertion of ultra-thin needles into points on the body along what are known as meridians. When stimulated with needles, these pathways can affect the way the body functions. For example, acupuncture may help regulate hypothyroidism (under-functioning thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (over-functioning thyroid). Acupuncture may also promote improved function of the ovaries and follicles.
In men, treatment is focused on increasing the quantity of sperm available, and may involve:
- Lifestyle changes including changing medication regimens, starting or changing an exercise routine and increasing the frequency or changing the timing of intercourse
- Medication to increase sperm count
- Sperm retrieval for use with assisted reproductive techniques
- Surgery to correct blockages and other issues
Infertility can be very stressful and ultimately heartbreaking if it is not resolved. But, there are many treatments available that can greatly increase the chances of conceiving.
No matter what obstacles you may face on the road to getting pregnant, the preconception (pregnancy planning) care at Baptist Health helps maximize your chance of having the healthiest pregnancy possible. Our medical experts are thrilled to care for you as you consider growing your family. Find a Baptist Health practitioner in your community.