Did You Ever Wonder, What is Infertility?

Most couples who didn’t get the chance to conceive despite trying very hard often ask questions such as – What is infertility? Am I infertile? Will I ever have a child? Most couples often have a very limited view on infertility. They only see infertility as a condition wherein they are unable to conceive a child. Often, they think that problem is either with that of the egg of the female, the sperm of the male or both.

However, infertility can be much more complicated than that. Technically, infertility is defined as not being able to conceive a child despite frequent sexual intercourse and the absence of birth control methods. Also, infertility has different kinds. Primary infertility is the case wherein the couple has yet to have a child; they have never conceived a child ever.

Secondary infertility is the case involving a couple that has already conceived a child but is unable to bear a child again after that. Infertility relating to the egg of the female and the sperm of the male also has different aspects.

For males, the sperm may not be able to function adequately. There is also a possibility that the male’s sperm count might be low. For females, it is most likely that they are prone to underdeveloped egg cells. And infertility is not just about the eggs and the sperm; it includes other parts of the reproductive system. In males, it can also involve the scrotum or testes. The parts of their reproductive system may be underdeveloped, may be injured or may have problems such as inflamed veins. In females, infertility may have been triggered by some issues in the reproductive cycle of the female or her ovary.

Infertility in both genders may also have a connection with the hormones engaged in the reproductive cycle. All the aforementioned reasons and more are possible reasons behind infertility. All couples must be aware of the possible scenarios so that they can address their infertility problems. Couples also have misconceptions regarding infertility.

They often believe in myths, misleading them. One such myth is that it is only the women that have problems with infertility. However, this is not the case; around one third of infertility conditions are due to problems with the reproductive system of the male gender. Another myth is that only physiological concerns are the source of infertility. In a sense, this is true.

However, the physiological state of a person is often affected by external factors such as smoking, alcohol, stress and the likes. Even things such as wearing too tight clothes can have an effect on the reproductive system of a person. Another misconception is that infertility can be treated easily. Although in some cases, it may be possible but in other cases, infertility can be the outcome of a very serious problem. It is thus essential for couples to have an in-depth understanding of infertility including its possible causes, effects, treatments and costs.

Infertility is the inability of a couple to get pregnant and conceive an offspring. In most technical definitions, infertility requires having regular sexual intercourse and without the use of birth controls methods. Also, involving a certain time span, infertility usually happens at least 365 days of not being able to conceive. It is not right that couples do not have a thorough knowledge regarding infertility. However, most couples who want to have kids but are unable to do so look for different signs of infertility. Once they recognize different symptoms, they consult with a doctor or a specialist to seek help, if the specialists diagnose that one or both of them are infertile.

One of the most popular infertility symptoms is not being able to conceive amidst all the efforts in trying. This sign usually is the one that makes the couples think, especially if they have been pursuing this for a long period of time. There are other symptoms of infertility for both genders. It is a typical misconception that there are no evident physical signs of infertility in men but there are, however, more signs for infertility in women. One sign of infertility for females are irregular menstrual cycles, especially if little or no bleeding happens for a long span of time. This usually occurs when a pregnancy test indicates a negative sign; it can be one of the most indicative signs that a female is infertile.

Another one is pelvic pain. Pelvic pain, usually spreading up until the lower back and with varying degrees, can be a sign of a disease or illness such as endometriosis or infection that leads to infertility. Another sign for infertility is body temperature. Body temperatures are indicative of the stages of a female body’s changes, especially of the reproductive cycle. It can indicate whenever levels of certain hormones are low such as progesterone and estrogen. Also in women, the absence of cervical fluid during ovulation is a sign of infertility. The absence of the fluid prevents the sperm from reaching the egg. Even frequent weight changes can be signs for infertility in women since it shows that hormones are unbalanced. As for men, impotence and premature ejaculations can be a sign of infertility. Testicular problems such as swelling and inflammation as well as difficulty in urinating can also be considered as infertility signs in men.

But it has to be noted that the aforementioned signs are not always indicative of infertile. The presence of one or two signs does not automatically a man or a woman is infertile. But these signs often lead couples to testing for infertility. These tests are the accurate ways to determine infertility in couples. For men, semen analysis is the sure way to know infertility. Laboratory tests for the egg samples, etc. are common to check whether a female is infertile.

How Many Women Are Infertile?

When looking at infertility statistics, it’s important to first understand how certain terms in the relevant studies are being used. Some of the best data on infertility comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC defines infertility as the failure of a couple to become pregnant after having intercourse without contraception for 12 months or more. The term “impaired fecundity” is in some respects more general, and captures all women who have difficulty becoming pregnant or difficulty carrying a baby to term.

According to the CDC, approximately 7.3 million women of childbearing age (between 15 and 44) in the US are likely to have impaired fecundity. Overall, that means an impaired fecundity rate of about 11.8%. Many of these women will not become aware that they have a fertility problem until they try to start a family. When looking more narrowly at the population of married women of childbearing age, about 7.4% are infertile. This means approximately 2.1 million married women in the U.S. each year remain unable to get pregnant after 12 months of trying. Another 600,000 women experience pregnancy loss through miscarriage each year.

How Does Maternal Age Factor into Things?

That “childbearing age” range – from 15 to 44 – is awfully long. It is commonly known that a woman’s fertility decreases with age. That’s because each female is born with all of the eggs she will ever produce, and as she ages, those eggs also age and become less viable. A look at diagnoses by physicians illustrates the following breakdown of infertility rates by age group: For women age 15-29, 11% are infertile. The rate increases to 16.9% for women between 30 and 34, and jumps to 22.6% for women between 35 and 39. Women aged 40 to 44 experience about a 27.4% infertility rate.

Who Seeks Treatment?

While many medical researchers find that the actual level of infertility in women has not changed dramatically over time, the number of couples affirmatively seeking out help for their infertility has indeed increased, and as such these statistics are often more interesting. Because of the expected decline in fertility with age, it’s not surprising that couples under 35 are more likely to seek infertility treatment than older couples if they experience trouble getting pregnant. According to a CDC report on 422 fertility clinics, in 2005, approximately 40% of couples that used some form of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) were under 35 years of age, while only 9.5% percent were over 42 years of age. ART is defined by the CDC as any fertility treatment in which both sperm and eggs are handled, the most common of which is IVF. ART has become an increasingly common resource for infertile women, as evidenced by the near doubling in the number of ART cycles performed in the United States in recent years, In fact it’s estimated that these days about 1% of all live births are achieved through ART.

When we look at infertility services more broadly, as including medical tests to diagnose infertility, medical advice and treatments to help a woman become pregnant, and services other than routine prenatal care to prevent miscarriage, the highest rate of childless women who have received any infertility service occurs in women between 30 and 34 years of age, at 17.3%. For those women between the ages of 35 and 39, only about 15.2% seek some form of infertility services.

What do we Know About Infertility and Race?

Unfortunately, there is no national data breaking out infertility rates by race or ethnicity. We have more data on which women are most likely to seek out infertility services. Typically they are older, with higher education levels and higher incomes. The National Survey of Family Growth gives us some insight into the likelihood that a woman will receive infertility services based on race. In 2002, 10.7 percent of white women reported ever seeking medical help to get pregnant, as compared to only 4.7% of African American Women, 5.6% of Hispanic women, and 7 percent of non-Hispanic other women (including Asian/Pacific Islanders, American Indians/Alaska Native and those of more than one race). These statistics may well indicate that better outreach about options for treating infertility is needed in non-white communities.