If you are concerned about your fertility, the first thing to understand is that you are not alone. Up to one in six couples worldwide have difficulty conceiving in the first 12 months of trying. It is also important to recognise that becoming pregnant is not that easy for everyone. Many couples believe that once they stop taking precautionary measures, they will fall pregnant very quickly. There is only a fairly short time each month within the menstrual cycle when conception is possible.
Scientific advances over the past three decades have helped millions overcome problems with fertility. Treatments ranging from medications to assisted reproductive technologies (ART, including in vitro fertilisation (IVF) are achieving unprecedented success.
A diagnosis of infertility can naturally leave you feeling shocked and lead to a whole range of emotional reactions, which are often very strong, and at times overwhelming. This is normal and while most of the time you will be able to cope with the stress and pressure of the situation, there may be times when you need extra support, reassurance, or some coping techniques to help you manage the challenges and your stress levels. It is important that you talk to your partner and other family members and friends about how you are both feeling throughout the diagnosis and treatment process. Your healthcare team, including counsellors will also be able to help with any concerns or questions you may have.
What is infertility?
The term ‘infertility’ is used when the ability to become pregnant is diminished or absent. It does not mean that you are unable to have children but that you may require treatment or assistance to achieve a pregnancy. Infertility is generally used if a couple has not conceived after 12 months of regular unprotected intercourse or after six months for women aged over 35. There are two types of infertility. The first is known as primary infertility and this is where a couple has never achieved having a baby before. Secondary infertility is where a couple is unable to conceive after they have already had a child.
Many couples who have difficulty conceiving may have a specific medical condition hindering the woman’s ability to become pregnant. About one-third of infertility cases are due to the woman; one-third are due to the man; and the remaining one-third are due to a combination of male and female factor issues. While general guidelines state that fertility is a problem after six to twelve months of trying to fall pregnant, at Medfem Fertility Clinic we believe that you should seek assistance as soon as you are worried – time may of the essence here.
Signs and Symptoms of Female Infertility
Apart from the fact that you have not fallen pregnant there may be no obvious signs or symptoms of what is causing the problem. The following are good reasons to visit a fertility specialist as soon as possible:
- Breast discharge
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Difficulties with sexual intercourse
- Excessive acne or facial hair
- History of pelvic infection
- History of sexually transmitted disease
- History of using an IUD for birth control
- Irregular or absent menstrual periods
- Sterilisation reversal
- Two or more miscarriages
The Impact of Age
Many couples do not realise that fertility will be lost at a relatively early age. A woman is most fertile in her early 20’s and will begin to lose her fertility (the quality and quantity of viable eggs) from age 35 onwards with it becoming obvious at age 40. In contrast to women, male infertility can persist into old age even though sperm counts and semen quality start to deteriorate in men over the age of 45.
For further information on age related infertility click here.
Boosting your Fertility
To give yourself the best chance of becoming pregnant, it is recommended that you have unprotected intercourse every two to three days. In addition, changing your lifestyle in certain ways and timing intercourse for when you are most fertile are some of the recommended ways to maximise the possibility of conceiving.
For further information on lifestyle changes click here.
Diagnosing Female Infertility
For your first appointment with a fertility specialist, it is best to go as a couple. Your specialist will initially ask you detailed questions about your medical history and your sex life and should conduct a physical examination. For further information on the initial consultation click here. For further information on Tests and Treatments for women click here.
Common Causes of Infertility in Women
Medfem Fertility Clinic’s principal objective when assessing patients is to determine the cause of infertility and to make recommendations about the most appropriate treatments. Common causes of infertility in women include:
- Abnormal Thyroid
- Advanced Maternal Age
- Blocked fallopian Tubes
- Cervical Factor
- Diminished Ovarian Reserve
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Stress and Infertility
- Uterine Factor
Treating Female Infertility
Discovering the medical reason for not being able to conceive easily and beginning treatment as advised by your specialist, is the start of a new and positive phase of your life. However, it is also important to acknowledge that even with treatment, it may take some time to become pregnant. It can be a long, frustrating, and emotional process and you and your partner should prepare yourselves for this (see our section on Coping Strategies for some suggested coping methods).
A list of treatment options can be found under the Treatments & Services section of our website.
Counselling is an essential part of all infertility services today. We are sensitive to the emotions of each infertile couple and the stress of the treatment itself. Counselling is available to all patients at any time at Medfem Fertility Clinic. For further information visit the Counselling and Support section of our website.