Infertility is defined as not conceiving after one year of frequent and unprotected sex. It is estimated that 15% of couples will have trouble conceiving and, in the United States, 12% of women of childbearing age have used an infertility service. This can be a difficult journey for couples to endure, wrought with unknowns, waiting, disappointment and even fear. With infertility rates on the rise, and new technologies being developed all the time, it’s important to gain a better understanding of this emerging field as well as what this diagnosis can mean for your relationship.
How is infertility treated?
There are many forms of assisted reproductive technology (ART), including one of the most well-known methods, in vitro fertilization (IVF). Women undergoing this treatment generally take a long list of medications meant to help their bodies with ovulation induction and form mature eggs. A doctor will then take the eggs from the woman’s ovaries, fertilize them with sperm outside of her body and implant them back in the woman’s uterus. Couples usually have to go through more than one round of this expensive process in order to become pregnant.
Other things to try
Some couples opt for more holistic methods. Men or women who carry excess body weight are more likely to run into fertility troubles. Women who suffer from conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome or endometriosis are also more likely to have difficulty conceiving. Therefore, dietary and lifestyle changes can truly help to improve a couple’s chance of conceiving with or without ART. Eating a whole-foods diet rich in vitamins and minerals is not only good for overall health but reproductive health as well. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture are also becoming more accepted for their ability to help with cases of infertility.
What does infertility mean for mental health?
The label of “infertile” can be incredibly difficult for both men and women to carry and for a partner to understand. In fact, fertility troubles can lead to separation or even divorce. Once an infertile couple becomes pregnant, there is a higher chance of miscarriage or preterm birth. Miscarriage is an often-overlooked problem in our culture. It feels like a true loss of life to the parent or parents and many times they may not feel the space to grieve appropriately. Sadly, many couples endure multiple miscarriages while using ART, adding to their stress and the mental and emotional pain of their journey.
What are the outcomes with ART?
The good news is that ART is advancing steadily. At this time, about 10% of infertility cases seem to be actually incurable. Many couples go through the process and come out with the child or children they have always wanted. It can be a long and arduous journey full of ups and downs, but science is advancing in ways that can make having a baby a reality for those suffering from reproductive difficulties.