Coming Face-to-Face With Infertility

It’s time. You want to be pregnant. You see pregnant women all around you and wonder, “Why does it seem so easy for them and it’s so difficult for me?” Such a time may be quite stressful and may put a strain on your relationship with your spouse. Infertility (not becoming pregnant) has different definition depending on age:

  • Under age 35 - trying to become pregnant for at least a year
  • Age 35 to 40 - trying to conceive for six months or longer
  • Over the age of 40 - infertility may be a possibility

Dealing With the Emotions of Infertility

Before you take any steps to ‘fix’ the problem of not becoming pregnant, start with communication with your partner:

  • Make your relationship a priority
  • Don’t blame each other for what’s going on
  • Mutually agree about which options are right for you, and which aren’t
  • Try not to let infertility be all-consuming
  • Keep your sense of humor

Be prepared that the journey you’re on is all about waiting. You wait for the treatment, and then you wait to see if you have a period or not. So, you’ll live your life in two-week cycles. Remember that you’re going through this process together; this isn’t a one person journey. And you have a lot of life to celebrate together in addition to the desire to become pregnant.

Steps to Take in Infertility

When you decide to seek help in becoming pregnant, you may begin the process with your current OB/Gyn doctor. Then he or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in infertility treatments.

1. Talk with a doctor who specializes in infertility
The specialist will talk with you and may make recommendations before testing. Infertility may be caused by an issue related to either spouse or may be a combination of how your bodies relate to each other. Your solution may be as simple as discovering the issue and addressing it, or you may enter into several levels of treatment.

2. Get testing for both partners.
The good news is that there are tests for both women and men that can often identify the issue(s) and point your healthcare provider to treatment possibilities. Tests may include hormone testing, genetic testing, sperm count, imaging (such as ultrasound), ovulation or other types of testing. Sometimes the tests are inconclusive, resulting in ‘unexplained infertility.’ But you still have options.

3. Learn about treatment options
Your doctor will recommend treatment options based on the test results. Treatments for men include altering lifestyle factors, such as improving frequency and timing of intercourse, changing medications and beginning an exercise program. Other treatments may also be appropriate for addressing sperm count issues. For women, treatments include stimulating ovulation with medication, Intrauterine insemination (IUI), and surgery (in the case of endometriosis or scar tissue). Many women become pregnant at this stage of treatment.

4. Proceed to a higher level of treatment option
Your doctor will start with the simple options. If you don’t become pregnant, then you may consider assisted reproductive technology (ART), of which in vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most commonly known. IVF happens in the lab using sperm from the father to fertilize mature eggs that the doctor retrieves from the mother. After fertilization, the doctor implants a number of fertilized eggs in the mother’s uterus. 

As you go through the process of infertility, it’s important to have support for managing the stress. Some women appreciate a support group that meets in person, some find resources online. Your infertility doctor may have recommendations, as well. Gathering information from several sources helps in several ways: takes some of the mystery out of what you’re going through, gives you emotional support and helps you with your outlook on the situation. 

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