What is Infertility?
Infertility is defined as the inability of a couple to conceive within the time period of twelve months. This definition assumes that the woman is having regular, monthly menstrual cycles and the couple is capable of having sexual intercourse regularly within this time period. Frequently couples assumed that the woman is the one who is infertile, yet studies show that at least half of infertility can be attributed to male factors.
What causes Infertility?
To determine the cause of infertility and many times to treat it, a battery of tests can easily be performed on both the man and the woman. For the woman, the first test is to determine if ovulation is occurring. A simple test is the basal body temperature chart or accurate temperature tracking to determine the slight rise that occurs with progesterone production following ovulation. Other tests are also available if needed.
In testing for the cause of infertility, it is also important to establish that the woman's uterus or womb is a normal size and shape along with confirming that the Fallopian tubes, the location for union of the egg and sperm, are open from the ovaries to the uterus to allow normal fertilization and transport. Both tubal patency and a normal uterine cavity can be confirmed by a test call the hysterosalpingogram.
Male infertility is much easier to evaluate with a diagnosis usually coming from the analysis of the man's seminal fluid. The man’s semen is examined under the microscope to determine the number, shape, and motility of the sperm. The specimen is also examined for the presence of white blood cells, which may indicate an infection. Other factors which are measured include volume, pH, fructose, and liquefaction of the sample. Each may offer clues as to why the couple has not conceived. Once these initial tests have been completed, a reproductive specialist can begin to pinpoint the reason(s) for the couple's inability to achieve a pregnancy and begin treatment.
What Infertility Treatments are available?
Even if all of the initial tests are normal the couple may have unexplained infertility and be candidates for treatments which will result in a pregnancy. Beginning with intrauterine insemination of specially prepared sperm after ovulation induction and proceeding all the way to intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) into a harvested egg with in-vitro fertilization and transfer into the womb, these treatments make parenthood possible for many who might otherwise be unable to achieve it.
What risks are involved with Infertility Treatments?
The more invasive the infertility treatments are, the greater the risk to the patient. There is little risk with initial testing. At times, with the initial testing and timing of intercourse, pregnancy is achieved before a definitive diagnosis can be established. One of the greatest risks to ovulation induction is hyper stimulation of the ovaries resulting in multiple gestations. This situation increases the risk of pregnancy complications and premature delivery. If patients are concerned about possible risks and want to know more about infertility treatments, it is best to consult a local specialist for more information.
Disclaimer: This information is intended only as an introduction to this procedure. This information should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor does it guarantee results of your elective surgery. Further details regarding surgical standards and procedures should be discussed with your physician.
By FertilityProRegistry.org Staff
Updated: October 27, 2010