It is estimated that 20 percent of all married couples in America experience infertility, defined as the inability to conceive or sustain a pregnancy after one year of regular, unprotected intercourse. Dr. Oz talks about the causes of infertility with ob-gyn Dr. Attila Toth, a world-renowned infertility expert and the director of The MacLeod Laboratory, a private infertility center.
Dr. Toth says that infections are the most common, yet most overlooked, cause of infertility. He says infection-causing bacteria acquired throughout one's lifetime—before we are born, in the womb, or through prior sexual activity—can be asymptomatic up until the point at which a couple tries to get pregnant.
"Where we really err is the point where we ignore infections, because by trying to place an embryo in an environment that lost its purity, its virginity…we expose the child at pregnancy to the harmful effect of those microbes," Dr. Toth says.
If infections are thought to be the cause of infertility for a couple seeking treatment, Dr. Toth recommends an aggressive regimen of antibiotics. He believes in vitro fertilization (IVT) often ignores the underlying infection and therefore should only be used as a last resort, once all other options have been exhausted. "The most abused medical procedure, the most overpriced medical procedure and probably, emotionally, physically, financially the most devastating medical procedure is the IVF," says Dr. Toth.
The only guaranteed method of contraception that can protect against infections is abstinence, says Dr. Toth. However, he says the presence of bacteria and fertility is not mutually exclusive. "The number of bacteria, the pathogenicity and the presence of antibiotics would determine how that bacterium could act on the system," Dr. Toth says.