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Friday, April 26, 2013

What Is Infertility?

This is the second year I've known about Infertility Awareness Week. Last year is the first time I came out to our friends that we were going through infertility by posting a link about infertility on Facebook.

What I've found is that lots of people don't know what infertility is characterized as, or just how many are living with it.

The CDC defines infertility as not being able to get pregnant for a year or more while actively trying. If a woman is 35 years old older, that shrinks to 6 months. Women who can get pregnant, but cannot stay pregnant also fall into this category.

Infertility occurs in 10% of women (6.1 million in the US) ages 15-44.

One of the most overlooked facts about infertility is that it isn't just a female problem. Many men experience infertility as well. On the CDC's website, they say that 1/3 of problems are on the male side, 1/3 are the female, and the other 1/3 are from both partners. The urologist we saw gave different statistics, but basically what they're saying is that men are involved here too.

Male factor infertility can have as many different factors as female infertility. Men can be born with the issue, sustain an injury, or develop some other type of blockage. Lifestyle choices also impact fertility in men. Alcohol, drug, tobacco usage, along with environmental and age factors play a role in fertility health.

The most common factors that inhibit female fertility are PCOS, Endometriosis, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, uterine fibroids, and ectopic pregnancy.

For women, the same lifestyle choices that limit men have an effect on female fertility. Age, tobacco, alcohol, stress, and weight all have effects on your fertility.

The testing to find out what the problem is, is emotionally exhausting. I feel fortunate to know what my diagnosis is, but some couples get an "unexplained" diagnosis. Finding out the problem in a woman calls for monitoring of temperature, cervical mucus, and ovulation test kits. The more invasive procedures are the HSG (X-ray of fallopian tubes and uterus in which a dye is injected), and laparoscopy (exploratory abdomen surgery).

Men take a semen analysis in which the count, shape, and movement are evaluated. Treatment options range from simple diet and supplement changes, to surgery (varicoceletomy).

There are numerous medications that both men and women can take to improve their fertility.

Other options that you may have heard of for a couple with infertility are procedures like IUI (intrauterine insemination) and ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology). ART includes a few different methods, one of which is the commonly known IVF. All have been proven to help infertile couples achieve successful pregnancies.

What the CDC doesn't really touch on is the emotional aspect of infertility. To be honest, I think this is the hardest part of it. The appointments and tests are just obstacles you have to get through, but the emotional pain lasts long after you've left the doctor's office - it never stops.

If you're still in the infertility closet, I would encourage you to talk to someone about it. I never knew how much love and support I could have until I started telling people. I'm not saying that you need to broadcast your problems, but make sure there is someone you can trust to talk about it with. Or write it down. Find some way to get it out of your head so you can process everything you're going through. I think many women instinctively keep the pain of infertility on the inside. For one reason or another, it's easier to not talk about, but it is so hard on us.

If you don't have anyone to talk to, please feel free to talk to me.

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