By Tenisha Waldo
Couples struggling with infertility can feel lonely, especially when it seems like everyone they know is expecting a baby. But there’s hope. “Infertility is when a couple cannot successfully get pregnant after trying for one year,” said Dr. JoAnne Gutliph of Novant Health Prince William OB-GYN.
“Infertility can stem from a collection of things,” Gutliph said. “There are different factors, like behavioral and lifestyle factors, environmental factors and physical factors.”
Behavioral and lifestyle factors for both men and women include excessive alcohol and tobacco use, as well as vitamin deficiencies. Even environmental factors, such as exposure to pesticides and lead, can disrupt ovulation and normal hormone function.
Women can be affected by increased caffeine consumption, medications and medical conditions, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, as well as being underweight and excessively exercising. Inflammation and scarring of the fallopian tubes and the uterus can be factors, too. Hormone imbalances may cause polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the most common cause of female infertility.
Factors for men include stress, which can decrease sperm production. Sperm shape and movement, as well as sperm count, contribute to a man’s fertility as well. “Age is definitely a factor,” Gutliph said. “A woman’s chances of getting pregnant start to decline around age 32. For men, it’s around age 35.”
“There are several options for couples who struggle with infertility,” Gutliph said.
Recommended lifestyle changes may include quitting smoking and exercising in moderation. Certain medicines can help regulate ovulation and stimulate the development and release of mature eggs.
Assisted reproductive technology options for women include intrauterine insemination, or placing prepared sperm directly into the uterus to help increase the chances of conception. If a woman has blocked, damaged or absent fallopian tubes, in vitro fertilization is the process where a woman’s eggs are extracted and fertilized with sperm in a laboratory and then the embryos are transferred back into her body for gestation.
Consult with your OB-GYN to learn about the best approach to help you conceive.
Tenisha Waldo is online public relations manager at Novant Health and can be reached at [email protected]