Infertility and Reproductive Care
If getting pregnant has been a challenge for you and your partner, you're not alone. Ten to 15 percent of couples in the United States are infertile. Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant despite having frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year.
If that definition of infertility applies to you and your partner, there's a chance that something treatable may be interfering with your efforts to have a child. Infertility may be due to a single cause in either you or your partner, or a combination of factors that may prevent a pregnancy from occurring or continuing.
Fortunately, there are many safe and effective therapies for overcoming infertility. These treatments significantly improve your chances of becoming pregnant
How will doctors find out if a woman and her partner have fertility problems?
Doctors will do an infertility checkup. This involves a physical exam. The doctor will also ask for both partners' health and sexual histories. Sometimes this can find the problem. However, most of the time, the doctor will need to do more tests.
In men, doctors usually begin by testing the semen. They look at the number, shape, and movement of the sperm. Sometimes doctors also suggest testing the level of a man's hormones.
In women, the first step is to find out if she is ovulating each month. There are a few ways to do this.
A woman can track her ovulation at home by:
- Writing down changes in her morning body temperature for several months
- Writing down how her cervical mucus looks for several months
- Using a home ovulation test kit (available at drug or grocery stores)
Doctors can also check ovulation with blood tests. Or they can do an ultrasound of the ovaries. If ovulation is normal, there are other fertility tests available.
Common tests of fertility in women include:
(HIS-tur-oh-sal-ping-GOGH-ru-fee): This is an X-ray of the uterus and Fallopian tubes. Doctors inject a special dye into the uterus through the vagina. This dye shows up in the X-ray. Doctors can then watch to see if the dye moves freely through the uterus and Fallopian tubes. This can help them find physical blocks that may be causing infertility. Blocks in the system can keep the egg from moving from the Fallopian tube to the uterus. A block could also keep the sperm from reaching the egg.
A minor surgery to see inside the abdomen. The doctor does this with a small tool with a light called a laparoscope (LAP-uh-roh-skohp). She or he makes a small cut in the lower abdomen and inserts the laparoscope. With the laparoscope, the doctor can check the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, and uterus for disease and physical problems. Doctors can usually find scarring and endometriosis by laparoscopy. During this surgery doctors use a tool called a laparoscope to see inside the abdomen. The doctor makes a small cut in the lower abdomen and inserts the laparoscope. Using the laparoscope, doctors check the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, and uterus for disease and physical problems. Doctors can usually find scarring and endometriosis by laparoscopy.
Finding the cause of infertility can be a long and emotional process. It may take time to complete all the needed tests. So don't worry if the problem is not found right away.