Ask the doctor… facts about infertility

Carol Peters-Tanksley, M.D.

Many couples don’t have an opportunity to experience the joy of parenting. They desire to hold a little one in their arms, but they find themselves unable to see that dream fulfilled. Approximately one in seven couples struggle to conceive a child. That’s millions of couples in this country who walk the often rocky road of infertility.

The more we learn about the miracle of pregnancy and new life, the more amazed I am at how often pregnancy does happen. It really is a miracle. But if you’ve been praying for and trying for that miracle for a year or more without success and without using any contraception, that’s the definition of infertility.

Causes of Infertility

About one-third of infertility is the female factor (medical issues in the woman), one-third is the male factor (medical issues in the man), and one-third is combined (both partners involved).

 

Christian Healthcare Ministries. Fruit of the Spirit devotional. FruitFULL.

 

For a woman, the first question is, are you ovulating? If you’ve been trying to conceive, you’re probably already tracking your periods. If your cycles come predictably between 25 and 35 days apart, you’re probably ovulating. If you’re not having menstrual cycles or if your cycles are irregular, it’s likely you aren’t ovulating normally.

Other physical conditions may lead to problems ovulating, including polycystic ovary syndrome, thyroid disease, smoking, being underweight or overweight, or other illnesses. The health of a woman’s eggs begins to significantly decline after age 35, which is why conception becomes more difficult for a woman above this age.

Ovulation test kits are widely available and are quite accurate in detecting the hormonal signal telling your ovaries to release a mature egg. Blood tests for certain hormones done on specific days of a woman’s menstrual cycle can also give a more complete picture of what a woman’s ovaries are doing.

Conditions affecting a woman’s uterus or fallopian tubes may also impede her from getting pregnant. Endometriosis, significant uterine fibroids, pelvic infections including sexually transmitted diseases, or past pelvic or abdominal surgeries are among the more common reasons. Pelvic pain, pain with intercourse, or painful or heavy periods indicate a medical evaluation is needed to evaluate for these conditions.

For a man, it’s all about the sperm. Poor sperm quality or even the absence of sperm can be related to certain genetic or hormonal conditions or past trauma to genital organs. It can also be related to the use of alcohol or drugs, certain medications, or illnesses including diabetes, thyroid problems, or others. Difficulties with sexual performance are sometimes a clue to underlying hormonal issues that also affect sperm production.

At-home kits are available to evaluate sperm count and motility. A more extensive semen analysis and blood tests can be done through a laboratory with a doctor’s order.

Approximately one in seven couples struggle to conceive a child. That’s millions of couples in this country who walk the often rocky road of infertility.

What Can I Do Myself?

The experience of infertility causes significant stress on women, men, and the relationships in our lives. “Relax and it will happen” is not adequate advice! But managing your anxiety and stress well will give your body a better chance of conceiving.

The basics matter: moderate regular exercise, healthy nutrition, adequate rest, and staying away from harmful substances such as tobacco or alcohol. Keeping your body mass index in a healthy range is among the most important lifestyle factors you can monitor.

 

Christian Healthcare Ministries health tips for trying to conceive.

Natural family planning

Natural family planning techniques show your fertile window and can be just as helpful in optimizing conception as in preventing it. Having intercourse every 36-48 hours during your fertile period provides your best chance of conceiving. Having intercourse more often than this does not improve your chances further.

For a woman, using an ovulation predictor kit can add more precision to knowing when you’re ovulating. These kits are based on testing your urine once a day during mid-cycle. Once you get a positive result, you will likely ovulate within 24 hours. If you haven’t had intercourse within the previous 24 hours, it would be a good idea to try within the next 12 hours or so.

Supplements abound advertising the promise of helping you conceive. But buyer beware; these products generally do not have testing to authentically claim that they are effective. One of the few supplements actually proven to improve a woman’s ovulation (if she is not ovulating normally) is myo-inositol. Pregnitude is one brand available with a good track record.

Trying to conceive is one of the few seasons of life where there’s good reason to take a high-quality multivitamin.

Infertility Treatment

If you’ve been trying to conceive for a year without success, or if it’s been six months and you’re 35 or older, consider getting a medical evaluation. Knowing your treatment options¹ will help you make an informed decision about what you choose to do next.

Trying to conceive is an important season of your life and in your marriage. You can use this season to optimize your healthy lifestyle and work together as a couple toward something meaningful.

Along the way, keep inviting God into the process. If you’re blessed with the miracle of new life, you’ll always be glad He was at the center of your journey.

¹ Christian Healthcare Ministries members have chosen to not share the medical costs of treatment specifically for infertility or for pregnancies resulting from such treatment. Please see our Maternity Guide for further information.

 

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Carol Peters-Tanksley, M.D.

Carol Peters-Tanksley, M.D., D.Min., is an author, speaker, OB-Gyn physician, ordained Doctor of Ministry, and member of Christian Healthcare Ministries board of directors. You can connect with her on her website, DrCarolMinistries.com.

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