Are you experiencing infertility? What should you do next?
Woman holding a pregnancy test in her hands.
For those with infertility, trying to have a child can be draining emotionally and financially, but while the experience may seem isolating, many couples are going through the same struggle.
One in eight couples has trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease and Control.
Jason Griffith, a reproductive endocrinologist and practice director at Houston Fertility Institute, said for care providers one of the most challenging aspects is that many couples wait to see a specialist.
"I encounter couples who have had three to four years of difficulty getting pregnant and haven't sought care," he said. "What I would say is at least get evaluated so you have options and at least we know what we are dealing with."
While some couples may choose not to do anything medically, he said as with everything in the medical field "knowledge is power."
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after 12 months of sexual intercourse without protection, according to Griffith.
For those who are over 35, the time trying to conceive is reduced to six months.
Griffith said some women may need to see a fertility specialists for an evaluation before they even start trying to conceive. He points to women who may have three periods a year or fewer.
"If a woman has irregular cycles and has problems ovulating she should seek care early because getting her to ovulate through medication is probably going to be necessary to help her get pregnant so she shouldn't wait a whole year," he said.
For others who do not appear to have any issues, you should see a specialist if you've tried for a year or in the case of those 35 and older, 6 months, without success.
Griffith said fertility evaluations focus on three aspects necessary to get pregnant.
He said the first is the regular release of a competent egg, and getting a rough estimate of how many eggs the woman has in stock and whether that number is age appropriate. He said they typically conduct a sperm analysis to ensure the the male partner is producing enough sperm.
"The third component is making sure that the female reproductive tract is a hospitable place for the sperm and egg to get together," he said. "...So making sure the fallopian tubes are open."
It depends on the cause of infertility. A specialist will start by diagnosing the cause of infertility and then prescribing the proper treatment. A couple may be able to conceive with hormone treatments, or need artificial inseminiation or in vitro fertilization.
Some couples may have "unexplained infertility" or what Griffith says can be referred to as "sub fertility."
"Sub fertility is a better way to describe it because I'm not telling my patient they’ll never get pregnant, but the chance of getting pregnant naturally is a lot lower," he said.
How can you get started? RESOLVE has a fertility assessment tool which can help men and women diagnosis possible causes of infertility.
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