“Am I infertile? Can't I conceive a child?" Many couples face these dreaded questions when they cannot get pregnant. Infertility problems affect up to 15% of the population of reproductive age (one out of six couples). Many of those affected are not even aware that they are suffering from a problem until they begin to try actively to conceive.
The good news is that not all is lost: even if you are infertile, there may be treatments that allow you to have children with your own eggs or sperm. It will depend on what is causing your infertility.
In this post, we tell you everything you need to know about infertility: what it is, why it happens and what options you have.
Definition of infertility
According to the Spanish Fertility Society (SEF), infertility is the inability to achieve pregnancy after unprotected and frequent sexual intercourses over a one-year period.
85% of couples who are trying to have a child will achieve it in the first year, of which one-third will get pregnant during the first three months. Among the others, only 5% will achieve spontaneous pregnancy during the following year. This means that the majority of couples who do not develop a pregnancy after a year of frequent sexual intercourse suffer some problem that makes it impossible to fertilize the egg.
What is the cause of infertility?
About 15% of the population of reproductive age suffers from infertility. Depending on the member of the couple that is affected, we can talk about different factors:
Men are responsible for between 35 and 45% of cases of infertility in a couple. The most common causes are alterations in the production and development of sperm or problems related to erection and ejaculation.
Various diseases in the female reproductive organs can cause sterility in women, from alterations in the structure and function of the fallopian tubes or uterus to conditions that prevent or alter ovulation. This also includes diseases such as endometriosis.
In addition, we must take into account the age factor. More than half of the women who come for a consultation with infertility problems are of older ages. From the age of 35, fertility begins to decrease sharply, a situation that worsens as we approach 40.
Sterility due to exclusively female factors occurs in up to 50% of couples.
In cases where both men and women suffer from some kind of problem that limits their reproductive capacity, we speak of a mixed factor of infertility. The percentage of diagnoses of this type is very variable, ranging from 20% to 60% of cases according to the SEF.
Unknown origin factor
In some cases, medical tests are not able to determine the exact reason why a couple fails to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse. This is when we talk about idiopathic infertility or unknown infertility. As scientific knowledge advances, new causes of sterility are discovered and, therefore, the group of infertilities of unknown cause is reduced. At the moment they do not exceed 5%.
How can we treat infertility?
The treatment to be applied will vary depending on the problem that caused the infertility in the patient. The mildest cases can be solved with a change in diet and lifestyle, or with medication.
If the patient suffers from any type of problem that prevents the passage of eggs or sperm (for example, an obstruction in the fallopian tubes or vas deferens), surgery may be able to restore fertile capacity.
When even surgical intervention is not enough, assisted reproduction should be used. In certain cases, assisted reproduction treatments allow a couple with infertility problems to conceive a child with their own gamete.
When should I see a specialist?
As the first few months go by without achieving pregnancy, many couples begin to consider whether they need medical advice.
At FIV Marbella, we recommend that you see a professional if, under normal conditions, you have not achieved pregnancy after one year of unprotected intercourse. If the woman is more than 35 years old, this time is reduced to six months.
If any of the members of the couple suffer from an alteration that may interferes with the attainment of pregnancy, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome, we recommend receiving the assistance of a specialist since the beginning.
If you think that you or your partner may suffer from an infertility problem, we recommend that you go to an assisted reproduction centre where all the necessary tests can be carried out to find out your fertility level. At FIV Marbella we offer you a first free visit.