Did you know that 1 in 8 couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy (according to the Centers for Disease Control)?
Or that male factor infertility is the only identifiable cause of infertility in about 8 percent of couples?
April is National Infertility Awareness Month, so we spoke with Dr. De’smond Henry, an Obstetrician and Gynecologist based in Southwest Georgia, to answer your questions about infertility and when to seek guidance from a professional.
First Things First: What is Infertility?
Dr. Henry said infertility is clinically defined as failure to achieve pregnancy within 12 months of unprotected sex or donor insemination in women younger than 35.
In women older than 35, that time period drops to 6 months.
When Should You Seek Help?
Dr. Henry said you should seek counseling from your OB/GYN if you:
- Meet the criteria for an infertility diagnosis,
- Have irregular menstrual cycles and/or if,
- You have a partner who has a known fertility problem.
“Some OB/GYNs can perform a basic infertility work-up,” Dr. Henry said. “However your OB/GYN may refer you to a reproductive endocrinologist (REI), and you can also request this referral yourself.”
REIs are OB/GYNs who specialize in infertility.
Infertility Fact #1: There’s More than One Cause of Female Infertility
Dr. Henry said the most common female infertility factor is an ovulation disorder, which accounts for 25 percent of all infertility cases.
“Most cycles that are 24-34 days in length are usually ovulatory,” he said. “If you are having a menstrual cycle every few months or not at all, then you are probably not ovulating and you must ovulate in order to become pregnant.”
He noted it’s important to have sex around the time of ovulation and recommends couples purchase over the counter ovulation predictor kits to help schedule intercourse.
However, Dr. Henry said age is also a huge factor when it comes to conceiving.
“A woman’s age can have a huge effect on her fertility. Fertility decreases significantly for women after 35, but many women are delaying pregnancy until their late 30s and early 40s.”
Men and Infertility
Dr. Henry said not to ignore the possibility that your male partner could contribute to (or be the cause of) your infertility.
“Male infertility affects approximately 40 percent of interfile couples, which is why a semen analysis is an important component of the initial infertility evaluation.”
Infertility Fact #2: Healthy Habits Matter
Dr. Henry said couples trying to conceive should consider their lifestyles.
“Healthy lifestyle habits are important,” Dr. Henry said. “If you are a smoker, I would recommend that you stop as smoking increases infertility rates for both men and women. Illicit drug use, alcohol and caffeine consumption can also have a negative effect on your fertility.”
He also recommended healthy diets, exercise, and a reduction in stress.
“Your mental health can play an important role in your fertility as well,” he said.
Infertility Fact #3: You’re Not Alone
“Remember: you’re not alone,” he said. “Infertility is a common problem that many couples face. And it’s normal to feel anxious, frustrated and stressed out. But there is help and the majority of couples who seek treatment for infertility reach their goal of becoming pregnant.
- 1 in 8 couples have trouble getting pregnant or staying pregnant.
- Infertility is clinically defined as failure to achieve pregnancy within 12 months of unprotected sex or donor insemination in women younger than 35 and 6 months in women over 35.
- The most common cause of female infertily is an ovulation disorder, which accounts for 25 percent of all infertility cases.
- Age is also an important factor when it comes to getting pregnant
- Dr. Henry said you should seek counseling from your OB/GYN if you meet the criteria for an infertility diagnosis; have irregular menstrual cycles; and/or if you have a partner who has a known fertility problem.
Dr. De’smond Henry is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Southwest Georgia Healthcare Clinics, Inc and Donalsonville Hospital, in Donalsonville, GA.