Struggling with Infertility? You’re Not Alone.

*Disclaimer:  Always consult your healthcare professional first for diagnosis and treatment options.

Infertility.  The word no couples want to hear when planning their families, and a word that becomes quite frightening when facing it.  Most importantly, it can feel isolating, lonely, and confusing. But you’re not alone.  About 10% of women in the U.S. struggle with getting pregnant or staying pregnant.  But although that may be true, the whole experience can be confusing and difficult to navigate.  If you’re starting to face concerns of infertility or are already living it, we’ve got information to help you understand, and can give you options on moving forward!

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Why does infertility happen?

There are several causes of infertility, and each comes with it’s own challenges and solutions.

Ovulation problems.  Ovulation problems is sort of an umbrella for a variety of other issues, but amounts for about 25% of all cases of infertility.  It can include abnormal follicle-stimulation hormone (FSH) levels or Luteinizing Hormone (LH) secretion, luteal phase defects, or premature ovarian failure.

  • Abnormal FSH and LH levels: LH is produced in your pituitary gland and is an important part of your menstrual cycle, by working with FSH, which stimulates your ovarian follicle, which causes eggs to grow.  Abnormal levels of either of these hormones can greatly affect your fertility. Your healthcare professional can offer a blood test to help diagnose this as the issue. The test will help them further diagnose any concerns as well.
  • Luteal phase defect:  This is a condition that can greatly affect your menstrual cycle — it can cause your uterine lining to fail to grow properly.
  • Premature ovarian failure: In easier terms, this is early menopause.  Again, the best way to test this is by having bloodwork done with your healthcare professional, and having a fertility specialist evaluate your ovaries.  If there are treatment options available, they will be able to discuss them after diagnosis.

 

Endometriosis.  This is a very common health problem for women, and occurs when the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus, and in areas of your body where it doesn’t belong.  While there isn’t a cure, there are a few treatment options to help with the symptoms of endometriosis.

Your doctor can prescribe a GnRH, or gonadotropin-releasing hormone, agonist.  This will stop your body from producing the hormones during ovulation (and the growth of endometriosis!) by creating a temporary menopause.  Once you end the medication, your menstrual cycle returns, and you may have a better possibility of becoming pregnant.

 

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.  You likely know this health issue as PCOS.  Women suffering from this syndrome experience a metabolism issue and a hormone imbalance that can affect their ability to become pregnant.  This can be showcased by a number of symptoms: irregular cycle, thinning hair, skin darkness, skin tags, etc.

Your doctor can work with you to manage and treat the symptoms.  They may suggest steps you can take at home, like losing weight, or medicines, like anti-androgen medicines, that will block the overgrowth of androgens in your system.

 

Blocked fallopian tubes.  Fallopian tubes are where conception happens — once an egg is fertilized, it moves through the tube up to your uterus.  However, if the tube is blocked, the passage of the egg becomes much more difficult, or impossible. Blockages can be caused by scar tissue, infection, or pelvic adhesions.

You can effectively treat a blocked fallopian tube, typically by surgery.  Your healthcare professional will be able to discuss all options with you.

There can be a number of other reasons you and your partner are experiencing infertility, but the best diagnosis will always be found by visiting your doctor or medical professional and having tests done to correctly pinpoint and treat any issues.

 

What happens next?

After a diagnosis, your doctor should prescribe a treatment plan or other options for you.  These can include a number of things:

  • Fertility drugs:  there are a couple of fertility drugs available that can help regulate your hormones and trigger the release of eggs during your ovulation cycles.  You would likely use these for 3-6 months before conception or moving to another option.
  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI).  This is the action of depositing sperm from your partner (or donor) directly into your uterus.  It’s done by using a catheter that will pass through your cervix.
  • Surgery.  There are a few reasons surgery might be your best option for treatment.  It can fix defects, open any blockages, remove tissue from endometriosis, or potentially treat PCOS.
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF).  This is likely the option you hear the most about.  During IVF, eggs are removed from your ovaries and combined with sperm from your partner in a laboratory.  If the fertilization takes, the embryo(s) will then be transferred back to your uterus for the remainder of the pregnancy.

 

While there is no definitive cure for infertility, there are a number of options that can help.  Make sure you’re consistently having check ups with your doctor or fertility specialist, and stay hopeful.  Getting in touch with support groups can remind you that you’re not alone on this journey, and can offer you a safe space to vent your frustration and hurt.  Opening up the conversation can make the process much less isolating and provide some sanity when you need it most.