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Female Infertility Overview

Female InfertilityIt can be quite frustrating for both men and women to deal with infertility. Many couples try for years on their own to become pregnant before even thinking about trying any fertility drugs or procedures. This is not only because of the cost involved—although that is definitely a major factor for many people. But, it is also because most couples realize that beginning fertility treatments or procedures is quite emotionally taxing upon both people in the relationship.

Infertility is defined by experts as the inability to get pregnant after at least one year of trying. This definition is flexible, however, if the woman has been on medication prior to or while trying to become pregnant. For example, if a woman was previously taking certain types of birth control, she may have difficulty in becoming pregnant for several months after she stops taking the medication.

A woman is also declared to be infertile if she suffers from repeated miscarriages. But, although about 12% of women in the United States ages 15 – 44 have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a baby to term (according to the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), infertility is not only a woman’s problem. There is a large percentage (about 30%) of cases in which the pregnancy problem was caused by the male in the relationship, either due to problems making sperm or problems with the sperm reaching the egg.

But, regardless of which person(s) cause the infertility, the reality is that most of the time it is the woman who feels most of the blame. This is probably because she is the one who is physically responsible for carrying the fetus; therefore, if there is a miscarriage or if there is simply no pregnancy at all, most people’s first inclination is to think that the female has a problem. And, since many men are not willing to believe that they have low sperm count, they are reluctant to get tested. So, it often falls to the female to take the brunt of the blame for the infertility—at least at first.

Sometimes if no health issue is found in the woman, she can convince her man to get tested for infertility; other times, doctors have to work blind, trying to help the couple without really knowing the cause of the problem because some men refuse to be tested. Luckily, since infertility is not the hush-hush issue that it was several years ago, more and more men are willing take part in tests and procedures.

There is a wide variety of causes of female infertility. And, indeed, there are likely to be several causes that are still unknown. Most of the time, though, problems with ovulation are what have caused a woman to be unable to become pregnant or carry a baby to term. Some less common causes are blocked fallopian tubes (due to pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis, for instance), uterine fibroids, or other problems with the uterus.

Some of the factors that can increase a woman’s risk for infertility are much the same as the factors that would increase a woman’s risk for heart disease or some other serious conditions. These include stress, poor diet, being overweight or underweight, smoking tobacco, and drinking alcohol in excess. But there are a few others that some women may not consider. For instance, athletic training can increase a woman’s risk for infertility. Also, women who suffer from health problems that cause hormonal changes are more likely to experience infertility.

Another issue couples need to keep in mind as far as infertility goes is that the older a woman is, the more likely it is that she will suffer from fertility problems. In fact, about one-third of couples in which the woman is over age 35 in the United States have fertility problems.

Whatever the cause of infertility, one thing is certain. Both the man and the woman in the relationship are going to have emotional difficulty in dealing with it. When a couple continually tries to get pregnant and cannot, or when they repeatedly have to deal with miscarriages, it causes a lot of stress and tension. And this is before the couple begins fertility treatments and procedures.

This is one of the reasons why women are always told to check with a doctor before trying to become pregnant. Of course, the doctor does want to physically examine the woman and make sure she is healthy enough for a pregnancy. But, the doctor also wants to ensure that they woman and her partner are emotionally stable in case either or both of them have any risk factors for infertility. The doctor can discuss all of that ahead of time, preparing the couple for what could lie ahead for them.

Female infertility will always be a problem for some women, and it will always be stressful for many couples. But, couples who work on the problem together and who face the stresses as a united front—rather than pointing fingers of blame—are more likely to find happiness in the end.

 
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