Many thousands of couples yearn for a child but simply cannot seem to achieve their fondest dreams. Trying to get pregnant can be extremely stressful and has been the source of many domestic disputes, even divorce. Modern medicine has made great strides in helping such couples and treatment may range from counseling, medication and artificial insemination to surgery. There are many different factors that may cause infertility and the main objective of treatment is always to try and identify these factors.
Infertility is most certainly not a disease. Around twenty percent of all couples have problems to conceive. About forty percent can be attributed to female infertility, another forty percent to male infertility and the other ten percent is because of unknown causes. Couples that struggle to conceive are generally advised to keep trying for at least twelve months and to then seek medical help. It is always best if both partners volunteer for tests because it is imperative to determine which of the two should be receiving treatment, if treatment is indicated.
Full or even partial infertility in either partner can place enormous stress upon a relationship. People that are not in this unenviable situation often fail to see the reasons, but there are almost always feelings of inadequacy, blame, anger and shame on both sides. That is why almost all medical specialists strongly advise couples to volunteer for counseling. This is important even if the prognosis for successful treatment is good because the treatment process itself can also be stressful and uncertain. Treatment always works best if the patient is emotionally stable.
There are many factors that can cause low fertility or even infertility in men. It is very difficult to pinpoint the exact cause, but in general the condition is caused by abnormalities in the sperm or by physical abnormalities in the male reproductive system. In the latter case several things can be the culprit. Disorders of the testicle can be very serious and not only cause infertility but also hormonal imbalances and sexual dysfunction.
There could also be epididymis or vas obstruction and in many cases impaired sperm production can cause difficulty in producing enough sperm. Disease of the prostate gland is also often the reason why men become infertile. In order to determine male fertility, medical specialist will test samples regarding the number, activity and shape of the sperm.
Women are more prone to be infertile than men, mainly because the female reproductive system is an extremely complex series of relationships controlled by and large by the hypothalamus gland. When anything goes wrong at any stage it could become difficult or even impossible to achieve pregnancy. In some cases the eggs lose their capacity to fertilize and in other cases ovulation fail or become irregular. Insufficient progesterone may also be the cause of eggs that fail to mature.
Even when the eggs mature properly, they must still travel unhindered to the distal end for fertilization to take place. In some cases genetic defects prevent the egg from being able to split. Fortunately, modern medicine is able to correct almost all of these and other female infertility causes.
The good news that many causes of infertile can be treated has a very hefty price tag. To add insult to injury, most health insurance policies do not cover this type of treatment. In some states diagnostic tests are covered, but not the treatment itself. Most fertility clinics will demand payment upfront and unfortunately, even a single try for an assisted reproductive procedure can cost more than twelve thousand US dollars. Of course, there are no guarantees and it is impossible to guess just how long treatment will last.
There are several treatment options available for both male and female patients. If a hormone imbalance is discovered drugs to correct the situation may be prescribed. In some cases these drugs are successful but in many other cases this treatment is part of other treatments, such as artificial insemination. The latter treatment is often very successful in cases where fertile sperm simply needs help in getting to the egg. In such cases highly concentrated doses of sperm is placed in the uterus at the proper time.
Surgery is very often successful in cases where the infertility is caused by certain genetic defects, blocked fallopian tubes, ovarian cysts and fibroids. Surgery is normally minor and patients experience the minimum of discomfort. In cases where all other treatments have failed, the sperm count is too low or when the fallopian tubes are blocked assisted reproduction technology may be advised. In such cases in vitro fertilization, intra cytoplasmic sperm injections or even zygote intra fallopian transfers may be considered.
A large number of women past the age of forty five opt for donor eggs or embryos in order to conceive a child. In such cases, the patient must decide whether to use a friend of family member as a donor or whether to opt for an anonymous donor. Most fertility clinics have donor databases and donors are thoroughly vetted to ensure that they are healthy and psychologically sound. Patients may normally make a choice regarding the race, educational background, physical characteristics and age of the donor. Once a donor is chosen both parties have to take drugs to ensure that their cycles become synchronized. Once healthy eggs become available, the procedure follows along the line of normal artificial insemination.
Some desperate couples have achieved their conception goals by using a surrogate, or gestational carrier fertility experts prefer to call it. In this case the couple undergoes treatment until an embryo that is biologically theirs is produced. The embryo is then implanted in the carrier. The entire procedure is fraught with emotional issues and it can cost a lot of money. In some places this option is illegal.
In those rare cases where there does not seem to be any solution for the problem, couples may want to think about adoption and stop trying to get pregnant. There and hundreds of thousands of babies and young children in foster care of in orphanages that can be better looked after by a loving couple that desperately want a child but find themselves unable to conceive. Many couples argue that such a child would never truly be their own and that their own genes would not be part of that child. This may be true, but thousands of proud adoptive parents have had nothing but joy in raising an orphan.