Generally, infertility is a common occurrence that is completely out of the sufferer’s control. Here’s how couples are taking back the reins in their struggles with infertility.
Infertility is rarely caused by a choice that someone has made. Faults in systems that are completely out of the realm of choice and control take away the ability to create a family naturally. Which can make people feel inadequate, insecure, and at fault. Now more than ever, couples across the globe are taking the steps to build families on their own terms. And we know how they’re doing it. But first, take a look at what actually causes infertility- and what doesn’t.
Causes of Infertility
“I think many couples are led to believe that there is something they can do, or could have done, to prevent fertility issues, but in reality- there rarely is.” Says a spokesperson and patient counselor for Ilaya, an international company that specializes in reproductive medicine, including surrogacy programs.
The company also regularly post announcements and studies about different types of infertility issues on their website. “We recently published a comprehensive infertility rates study on our site, and it’s remarkable how many patients didn’t before realize how widespread fertility issues are, for example, or the success rate of IVF cycles. It’s important for couples to do their research around these topics – when it comes to fertility, knowledge is power.”
So what regularly causes infertility? Men and women experience different causes of infertility (obviously). For women, the top causes of infertility are related to abnormalities in ovulation, which can be caused by:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndromes
- Primary Ovarian Insufficiency
- Uterus abnormalities, deformities, and other issues
- Blocked or malformed Fallopian tubes
- Advanced maternal age
Many of these problems are congenital, but a few of them can also result from certain traumas, surgeries, or preexisting diseases.
For men experiencing problems with fertility, these usually lie in difficulties producing sperm, or getting the little guys to the right area at the right time. Main problems for men include:
- Infections or diseases that affect sperm production
- Varicocele, or the swelling of veins in the testicles
- Hormone disorders
- Deformities in the shape or function of sperm
- Difficulties producing an adequate amount of sperm
A unifying factor that affects both men and women’s fertility is undergoing chemotherapy or other types of cancer treatment. It’s often advised that patients seek out a cryobank to store their genetic materials prior to undergoing cancer treatments.
Taking Back Choice
In some instances, couples can undergo specific types of therapies or surgeries that can serve to reverse or address issues of infertility. For women that have had issues with certain gynecological problems such as endometriosis, blocked Fallopian tubes or scarring from PCOS or polyps, surgery can sometimes address these problems.
Hormonal therapies can also assist couples who are experiencing fertility issues secondary to hormonal imbalances or insufficiency. Sometimes injections or oral medications will address these problems simply.
When surgery is no longer an option, and problems surpass the aid of hormonal treatments alone, parents are then looking towards recent advancements in medical technology to assist them in creating their dream
For troubles with sperm motility, amount, or with previously frozen specimens, women can undergo a treatment in which a physician injects sperm samples directly into the uterus. This is known in the medical community as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). Occasionally, multiple attempts at this are required and the procedure is only administered during ovulation, so schedules and appointments must be closely monitored.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
IVF or in vitro fertilization is a process that is used once other means of conception have failed, or that medical tests have proven to be insufficient at resulting in pregnancy. For IVF, sperm and eggs, either from the parents or donors, are combined in a lab setting and then allowed to mature.
If the mother is using her own eggs for the procedure, doctors will collect eggs from a woman during her ovulation. Ovarian stimulation and final maturation induction are ways that physicians stimulate a woman’s follicles to release as many eggs as possible. Following these treatments, doctors go in to retrieve the eggs, using an ultra-fine needle to remove fluid and eggs directly from the ovarian follicles. While the procedure sounds fairly invasive, it usually only lasts about 20-40 minutes.
Once the eggs and sperm have been collected, they are then individually assessed and prepared to give embryos the best chance possible of healthy maturation. The specimens are then combined. The combined sperm and eggs grow to create an embryo. As those embryos mature, some couples elect to undergo PGD or preimplantation genetic diagnosis. PGD removes a single cell from a mature embryo to assess it for any genetic or chromosomal abnormalities. This technique can serve to improve pregnancy results and even give an idea of the health or sex of the baby during pregnancy.
Surrogacy is an option for couples who are unable to carry a child safely on their own. Surrogacy takes the genetic material from hopeful parents or donors, and implants them into the womb of a surrogate via IVF. Surrogacy is often a choice that allows prospective parents a chance at having their own child when other options have fallen through.