Infertility Affects Both Men and Women
In the United States, approximately 6% of couples who want to get pregnant either can’t conceive or can’t continue a pregnancy to term. This breaks down to:
- one-third of these cases are due to female infertility,
- one-third are due to male infertility,
- and the final one-third are infertility in both partners or attributed to unknown causes.
Now the question is, how is infertility diagnosed? The average age of first time mothers in the U.S. is now 26.3 years. A key component of infertility in women is age. So, another question that comes to mind is what can people, especially women, do to preserve their fertility? Here are a few answers.
How is Female Infertility Diagnosed?
If a woman under 35 is unable to conceive after a year of unprotected sex, or 6 months if she’s over 35, then it’s time to have her fertility checked. This testing will include:
- Ovulation testing: there are ovulation tests that women can use at home to time intercourse. If the OTC test doesn’t give concrete results, or the woman has been using one without results, there are also blood tests doctors run that look for the progesterone spike that occurs after ovulation.
- Hysterosalpingography: a contrast dye is injected into the uterus and an X-ray is taken to detect abnormalities in the uterine cavity. This test can also determine whether the fluid passes out of the uterus and spills out of the fallopian tubes.
- Ovarian reserve testing: a series of blood and imaging tests that help determine the quality and quantity of eggs available for ovulation. This test is usually reserved for women over 35 who are more likely to have a low ovarian reserve.
- Hormone testing: test to check levels of ovulatory, thyroid and pituitary hormones that control reproduction.
- Imaging test: pelvic ultrasound that looks for uterine or fallopian tube disease.
How is Male Infertility Diagnosed?
Men are usually checked for fertility problems at the same time as their female partner. Age doesn’t play as much of a factor in male fertility as it does in female fertility since men continually produce new sperm from the time they hit puberty. The first round of testing for men involves:
- Urinalysis: to check for infection.
- Semen evaluation: to assess sperm motility, the shape and maturity of the sperm, the volume of the ejaculate, the sperm count and the liquidity of the ejaculate.
- Hormonal tests: to evaluate levels of testosterone and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) so the overall balance of the hormonal system can be determined.
Generally, the problem can be diagnosed after the first round of testing. If the problem isn’t obvious after the first round of testing, more advanced testing might be necessary. These tests can include: seminal fructose test, post-ejaculate urinalysis, semen leukocyte analysis, Kruger and world health organization (WHO) morphology, anti-sperm antibodies test, sperm penetration assay (SPA), ultrasound, testicular biopsy, vasography, and genetic testing.
How Do You Preserve Fertility?
While women can’t preserve their fertility indefinitely, practicing a healthy lifestyle will help them to not lower their fertility prematurely. The majority of these lifestyle practices affect male fertility as well, just not as strongly. These practices include:
- Not smoking.
- Limiting alcohol intake.
- Eating more plant-based protein.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Exercising regularly.
- Treating any ailments, especially sexually transmitted diseases, immediately.
- Making sure any fertility-sapping health issues, such as diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or endometriosis, are well controlled.
- Being aware of the age at which first degree relatives (mothers, sisters) went through menopause. Since age at menopause is genetically linked, if your mother went through menopause before age 40 you need to inform your health care provider as it will probably affect any infertility treatment plan.
Fortunately, Most Infertility Can Be Treated
Fertility centers can treat most causes of infertility because they have a wide range of therapies to choose from. A full-service, inclusive medical center will have everything in one place so your care will be coordinated with a minimum of hassle. When researching fertility centers, it’s always a good idea to see if they belong to The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). SART is the primary organization of professionals dedicated to the practice of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in the United States and registers 95% of the IVF cycles. Their site includes statistics for all the fertility centers registered with them along with a handy search tool. Many California fertility clinics, along with clinics in the rest of the U.S., are SART members so there’s no reason to use a facility that isn’t.
Infertility is a problem for both men and women. Fortunately, the majority of infertility problems can be overcome by full-service fertility centers. So, if you’re having trouble conceiving start the infertility work-up process. It’s your best chance to achieve the family you’ve been dreaming about for so long.