According to the Mayo Clinic, 10-15% of couples experience infertility. Thankfully, after treatment, about 2/3 of those couples are able to get pregnant. Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant despite having frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year for most people and six months in certain circumstances.
There are many causes of infertility. In approximately 1/3 of cases it is traced back to the woman, 1/3 of cases it is traced back to the man and 1/3 of the cases are due to both partners or the cause is unknown.
The most common cause of infertility in women is a failure to ovulate. A few causes of this are Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, where there is a hormone imbalance, and Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, where excessive physical or emotional stress result in the loss of a period. Besides these, it can also come from obesity and/ or weight gain, an ovarian tumor or cyst, weight loss including eating disorders and use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (including caffeine).
In men, infertility is usually caused by a low sperm count or abnormal sperm development. A specialist would look at the number of sperm, their motility and shape to determine if this is the cause. These abnormalities can be caused by overheating of the testicles, unhealthy habits such as drugs and alcohol or medical conditions such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, trauma or treatments like chemotherapy or radiation.
There are numerous treatments available for people struggling with infertility. Women can have ovulation stimulated with fertility drugs, have surgery, or do intrauterine insemination where healthy sperm are placed directly into the uterus. Infertility in men can be addressed through medication or behavioral changes and surgery or hormones. Couples may also choose to have a procedure such as in vitro fertilization which combines the sperm and egg in a lab and then implants the embryos into the uterus. This method is only effective in 40% of the cases of women younger than 35 years of age and declines as the woman becomes older.
Coping with infertility can be difficult, especially when the cause is unknown. The Mayo Clinic recommends a few steps you can take to prepare yourself for the journey ahead. First be prepared by asking your doctor a lot of questions. Next, set limits on what is appropriate and financially acceptable to you and your spouse. Infertility is deeply emotional so knowing what you will and will not do before asked the question will save you much time and uncertainty.
You will also want to consider other options if you are not able to become pregnant, such as adoption. Finally, look for support from friends, family and support groups or counseling services. Because infertility is so personal, many are unaware of how many struggle with it. Linking yourself with others in your situation will be a great blessing.
The church has many talks and personal stories linked to their website regarding infertility. The following link will take you to stories of couples dealing with infertility as well as numerous talks by General Authorities and others on how to make it through this time in your life.
Another website geared specifically towards LDS couples dealing with infertility is: www.ldsinfertility.org
There are many resources out there to help if you struggle with infertility. Don’t hesitate to reach out to these sources or to talk to your doctor if you think something may be wrong.
Infertility. (2013, September 18). Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/infertility.html
Infertility fact sheet. (2012, July 16). Retrieved from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/infertility.html
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013, July 19). Infertility. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/infertility/DS00310
Nazario, B. (2011, July 28). Understanding ovulation and fertility: Facts to help you get pregnant. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/baby/ss/slideshow-understanding-fertility-ovulation