Infertility: An Overview
First steps to take in investigating a suspected fertility issue
Pregnancy is a special time in a couple’s lifetime, and many couples take great care to plan the timing of their pregnancy. They begin to get panicky with each passing month unfulfilled, however, and when the pregnancy will happen becomes less important than whether pregnancy can happen at all.
Is It Infertility?
Even though half of the causes of infertility are male-related, the first stop is usually to the woman’s regular obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN). An OB-GYN can determine what level of infertility work-up need be started. Frequently infertility is a self-resolving problem, as many couples have focused too intently on the exact timing of a planned conception, and have become frustrated too soon. After six months of failed efforts, however, it’s usually time to investigate why a couple hasn’t achieved pregnancy.
An OB-GYN is certified to treat infertility up to a point, but if simple problems are ruled out, then an infertility sub-specialist may need to be consulted. This is a very trying time for both partners, and emotions can run high. Being sent to yet another doctor can be discouraging, and without good communication a couple may feel like they’ve been shoved away. But the reassurance of a definite plan by their doctor can go a long way to calm the intense worries over infertility.
To track down the cause of infertility, a methodical approach is important. It’s not just a matter of taking “fertility drugs” and then waiting for that certain glow. First steps need be taken so that the most obvious and easily treated causes can be eliminated.
Of course it’s assumed that a careful exam was done before having attempted pregnancy. A good check-up documenting normal hormonal function, good menstrual rhythm, and normal female anatomy should precede conception. Prenatal vitamins prescribed during this visit can decrease the risk of miscarriage and some genetic problems. Younger women (and men, for that matter) typically don’t take as long to achieve pregnancy as do older couples. Six months of failure to conceive may be a problem for the twenty-something couple, but a couple in their late thirties may need a few extra months’ grace time before a problem is suspected.
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