Amanda and I have talked a lot about our “journey through infertility” already, but I guess we’ve never really discussed what exactly infertility is. So, being the research nerd that I am, I thought I’d give some background infertility.
1) Infertility is a disease.
For starters, infertility is officially recognized by the World Health Organization, The American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology as a disease that results in the abnormal functionality of the reproductive system. It’s not simply just an inconvenience. It’s a diagnosable, and more importantly, treatable condition.
2) In the United States, infertility means not achieving pregnancy after one year of trying.
In most other countries though, this is regarded after two years. Additionally, if the woman is over 35, doctors will usually diagnose infertility after only 6 months. Women who can get pregnant but fail to carry give live birth are also sometimes considered infertile.
We started trying to grow our family in August of 2010, so we’ve been at this for well over 2 years. We’re well beyond the threshold of infertility, by any standard.
3) Infertility can be broken down into two basic types: primary, and secondary infertility.
Primary infertility is when a couple has never successfully gotten pregnant or given live birth. In my research, this seems to account for about half of all infertility cases.
Secondary infertility is the term given when a couple has successfully given birth previously, but can no longer achieve pregnancy after a year or more of trying.
Since we don’t have kids yet, we’re dealing with primary infertility.
4) Couples dealing with secondary infertility are usually much less likely to seek treatment.
This is probably due to the fact that having one or more children already, a couple assumes fertility isn’t an issue for them. However factors like age, physical damage or internal scaring, hormonal changes, decreased sperm production, and endometriosis can all influence a couple’s fertility, regardless of previous pregnancies.
If you are having difficulty getting pregnant after previously having children, don’t be afraid to seek professional treatment from a fertility specialist!
5) Infertility affects about 9-15% of the US population.
A study from the CDC performed between 2006-2010 found somewhere around 6.1 million women in the United States between the ages of 14 and 44 were infertile. That equals out to about 1 in 10 women in the US! That’s about the same percentage as those who are left handed.
6) Infertility affects men and women about the same.
Most studies have shown that about 33% of infertility cases can be attributed to the male partner, and about 33% to the female partner. The remaining cases are usually either a combination of factors from both partners, or due to unknown reasons.
We fall into the category of unexplained infertility, which is somewhere around 5% of all cases.
7) Most cases of infertility are treated with drug or hormone therapy.
Depending on the testing results, different treatment options can be determined by the fertility specialist. In 80-90% of cases though, the main method of treatment is either surgery, or using a fertility drug like Clomiphene (also known as Clomid). Clomid is an oral medication taken by the woman in order to stimulate ovulation. In certain cases, more potent fertility drugs like Pergonal, Metrodin, Humegon, or Fertinex could be prescribed.
Surgery to repair the woman’s ovaries, uterus, or fallopian tubes is also sometimes considered if the doctors think fertility could be restored.
Only a small percentage of cases (somwhere around 3-10%) result in using assistive reproductive technologies like intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
Since we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility (all our tests came back normal), the doctors decided to start with a conservative approach by trying several rounds of IUI. Since we had no luck after 4 attempts, we’ve moved on to IVF.
8) Fertile couples only have a 25-30% chance of getting pregnant any given month.
If you really think about the number of steps that have to happen in order to achieve pregnancy, you’ll realize it’s amazing pregnancy happens as often as it does! In a general sense, here’s what has to happen:
- A women’s ovary must release a viable egg.
- That egg must successfully travel down the fallopian tube towards the uterus.
- A man’s sperm must successfully survive long enough in the woman’s body to find and fertilize the egg.
- The fertilized egg must successfully attach to the lining of the uterus.
Obviously, a problem with any of these steps can result in missed pregnancies and/or infertility.
Keep in mind, Amanda and I are not medical professionals by any means. This post is simply intended as a general, informative resource to educate you on some aspects of infertility I found interesting. If you or someone you know is struggling to get pregnant, I urge you to seek professional treatment!
And finally, here’s a list of resources I found helpful when researching this topic: