What is infertility?
How do you know if infertility is an issue for you, and what should you do if you suspect it is? If you’re thinking about parenthood, let us answer some of your pressing questions.
You’ve probably heard the term ‘infertility’, but do you know what it actually means? Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive a pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse. It’s more common than you’d think, affecting around one in six Aussie couples of reproductive age.
To help us understand infertility, check out the answers to some of these common questions.
What are the most common causes of infertility?
In women, the main causes of infertility are:
- Ovulation issues or irregular periods – not ovulating, or having irregular or no periods
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – this common hormone problem is the leading cause of infertility
- Endometriosis – a condition where uterus-lining cells grow outside the uterus
- Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes - this can impact the sperm’s ability to reach the egg.
- Uterine fibroids - benign lumps of tissue that can grow around and inside the uterus.
Sometimes, you may not know that you have underlying conditions like PCOS or ovulation issues until you start trying to conceive without success. This is one of the reasons why it makes sense to come off any form of contraception a month or two before starting to try. It may take your body some time to adjust, and you’ll be able to track your natural cycle to get the timing right - or to seek advice from a GP if your cycle continues to be irregular.
For men, the most common causes of infertility are:
- Abnormal sperm production – having a lower-than-normal sperm production, no sperm present at all, or having a high proportion of sperm that is abnormally shaped
- High sperm DNA fragmentation - this can affect a sperms ability to fertilise an egg
- Sperm antibodies – it’s not common, but sometimes anti-sperm antibodies can interfere with mobility and fertilisation.
It’s good to be aware that male infertility is the second biggest issue after a woman’s age. Thankfully, though, there are several treatments available to help a couple make the best of sperm quality and quantity as it is and achieve a pregnancy.
Read about the common fertility tests to assess your reproductive health here.
Ok, so how is infertility treated?
There’s a range of fertility treatments available – the right ones for you will depend on what your fertility test results indicate. Treatments may include ovulation cycle tracking, ovulation induction, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilisation or fertility surgery. We’ll go into more detail on this in next week’s issue. There are also some advanced science options such as pre-implantation genetic testing – which we’ll delve into more in Week 4.
If you already know some of the factors we mentioned apply to you, and it’s taking longer than you expected to fall pregnant, we’re here to help.
Call 1800 111 483 to book an appointment with a fertility specialist.