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Having a baby may seem like a God-given right, but many couples struggle with infertility. It can take financial, emotional and physical tolls on them. Dr. Geoffrey Sher explains three causes of infertility and how modern medicine is helping many conceive.
As a physician involved in the treatment of infertility for more than 35 years, I am still in awe of those that choose to undergo often arduous fertility treatments. However, having children of my own and not being able to imagine life without them, I can fully understand the motivation that drives many couples to embark on a journey from infertility to family.
What makes this journey so scary for most infertile couples is the fact that at the outset they usually have little or no knowledge regarding the road ahead, where it might take them, of possible detours along the way and of the financial, emotional and physical toll. Most are not even aware of the fact that there can be no guarantee that in the end they will reach their desired destination. Thus, it becomes the first responsibility of the fertility doctor and his team to empower such couples with all the required knowledge and then to provide quality care with professionalism, honesty, integrity and humility. I say humility because in the final analysis, no human being has the ultimate say in the creation of life.
Neither sex contributes more heavily than the other to infertility problems. Roughly one-third of all infertile couples can trace their infertility to the woman, one-third to the man and one-third to both partners.
Nowhere is the plight of the infertile couple more evident than in an ever-growing population of older women who, upon finding themselves unable to conceive by the time they reach their late 30s and early 40s, become desperate and often even panicked. Many such women have no other recourse than to go directly to in vitro fertilization (IVF).
For them, there is good news! There are major technical advances in the IVF arena: the emergence of sophisticated drugs and regimes by which to safely and effectively stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple healthy eggs, as well as the recent emergence of new genetic techniques to identify those embryos (fertilized eggs) that are most likely to develop into normal babies. And those for whom the fertility clock has run out of time, there is always the option of using an egg donor and still having a family.
I feel privileged to have been influential in the births of about 16,000 IVF babies, and in the process I hope to have left a small footprint in this relatively new and wonderful field of medicine.
What causes infertility?
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