Fertility and Infertility: What You Need to Know

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of women in the United States, ages 15-44 who are unable to carry a baby to term is 6.7 million. Approximately 10.9% of women of the same age are considered infertile.

So what does that mean and what can women do about it?

Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after 12 months of unprotected sex.

There are many factors that contribute to a couple’s fertility and any one of them have the potential to create a problem. All contributing factors that result in “male infertility” can be identified through semen analysis. An abnormal semen result can stem from certain medical conditions such as diabetes, testicular malfunction or previous chemotherapy.

Infertility in women is more complicated. Women need functioning ovaries, fallopian tubes and a uterus to get pregnant. So what do you need to know about infertility, and, more importantly, getting your body on track to have a baby?

First thing’s first

When question why you’re not getting pregnant, the first thing a women should do is track her ovulation. An ovulation predictor kit can be incredibly helpful for this. If it is determined that you are ovulating correctly, the next step is to consider a problem with the fallopian tubes, an evaluation of which is usually done via x-ray or surgical procedure. Finally, the uterus may be evaluated by transvaginal ultrasound and you may be advised to undergo a surgical procedure to evaluate the endometrial cavity.


Age is the biggest factor affecting fertility

Unfortunately, advanced age for fertility purposes is designated as 35 and above. In addition to age, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and extreme weight gain or loss can all contribute to infertility.

Many health professionals agree that diet plays a role

Be sure you are eating good sources of fat, like avocados and olive oil, and enjoying plenty of fruits and vegetables to provide your body with all of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs to function correctly.

Make lifestyle changes in advance

Ideally this happens before you start trying to have a baby—you quit smoking, consume little or no alcohol and eat a healthy diet.

According to the experts, timing is everything

The fertile window is the six days that end on the day of ovulation. Pregnancy is most likely to occur within the three days before ovulation.


How do birth control pills affect the process?

We used to think that pregnancy shortly following an extended time on birth control pills was not a good idea due to an increased potential for miscarriage. Gynecologists no longer hold to this thinking, but they do agree it is probably a good idea to stop the pill and allow your natural menstrual cycle to take over before starting to try to get pregnant (usually 2-3 cycles).

Seek a professional opinion after six months

Once a couple passes the six-month mark of not conceiving on their own, I recommend making an appointment with your gynecologist. Based on your age and personal circumstances, she will help identify a plan for you. Testing, blood work, ultrasounds and the like will probably be ordered.

You have options

Depending on your specific diagnosis, there are a host of procedures, at varying levels of invasiveness, to consider, such as stimulating your ovulation with fertility drugs, IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro fertilization). Although it sounds complicated, the human body is an amazing machine and modern medicine is incredible, opening many doors that were previously shut.

If you are faced with infertility issues, the path can be exhausting, frustrating and expensive but the end results can be surprising and overwhelmingly happy!

For more from Dr. Nancy Simpkins, read her recent columns on the site or visit her online at nancysimpkinsmd.com.

Ben Kruger