Infertility is officially defined as the inability to conceive a viable pregnancy after one year of unprotected intercourse. This "official" definition, however, does not begin to define what infertility really means.
Infertility can mean learning a whole new language of medical terms. It can also mean that making love becomes associated with failure or feelings of isolation from the fertile world. It can get quite difficult when pregnancy announcements from others don't necessarily bring joy, but may instead bring feelings of jealousy and resentment. But the more you know about infertility, the more you can determine what course to take to improve your condition.
When to Seek a Doctor's Prognosis
Women under the age of 35, with no remarkable medical condition, should attempt conception for a year before consulting a physician. For women over the age of 35 or women with a relevant medical condition, after six months of trying, she should seek out help.
There are three levels of physicians who treat infertility. The first is an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) who has some knowledge of infertility diagnosis and treatment. The second is an OB/GYN who has more experience with infertility and may even offer some of the high-tech treatments. Thirdly, there is a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) who has received several years of specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of infertility. Be aware that physicians can state that they are "infertility specialists," even if they have not received any formal training post-residency. One way to find a physician who specializes in infertility is to look for listings under AmericanSocietyofReproductiveMedicine.org, but please note that non-RE's are listed as well.
Infertility treatment can be as simple as taking medication by mouth to more complex treatments, such as medical injections to produce several eggs at once. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most common. This involves taking medications to produce many eggs, then surgically removing the eggs and fertilizing them in a petri dish.
There are a number of variations of IVF, the most common of which is intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a treatment for infertile males. If there are inadequate numbers of normal sperm or if the motility or morphology are low after the eggs are retrieved, one normal-looking sperm is injected into each egg. Thousands of babies have been born as a result of this fairly new technology. It's Pretty Common…and Stressful
Infertility is a very common condition and affects approximately one out of six couples of childbearing age. Contrary to popular opinion, men are just as likely as women to be the cause of infertility. Fortunately, modern treatment leads to pregnancy in more than 50 percent of individuals and couples who seek out treatment.
Unfortunately, infertility can be a highly stressful experience. One third of women going through infertility report similar levels of anxiety and depression to women with cancer, HIV or heart disease. Procreation is the strongest instinct in the animal kingdom, stronger even than survival. Combine this instinct with the social pressure to have a baby, and the stress can be intense.
How to Re-Connect With Your Spirit
There are a number of things one can do to relieve distress during infertility. Examine the people in your life and make sure they provide support to you. Ask your doctor about joining a support group to relieve feelings of isolation. Research has shown that women who attend support groups have significantly higher pregnancy rates when compared to women who receive comparable medical care but don't attend a group. Online communities like www.EmbracingWomensHealth.com are great resources to use for talking to others that are going through the same stressful time.