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Infertility FAQs: What You Need to Know

  • Category: Education
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  • Written By: Atlanta Center for Reproductive Medicine
Infertility FAQs: What You Need to Know

For those just starting this journey, or loved ones trying to understand it, you may be looking for information about what infertility is and all that it entails. While it may not be a subject discussed often, do know you’re not alone.

One in eight couples in the U.S. has difficulty conceiving or sustaining a pregnancy. And while there's no one-size-fits-all answer to fertility struggles, some common questions come up time and time again. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about infertility.

What is infertility?

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected sex (or six months of unprotected sex if 35 years or older). It can affect anyone, and can be caused by a variety of factors.

It may seem like a simple equation: an egg + sperm = a baby, but that’s not always the case. In order to get pregnant, the following steps must be followed — and a problem with one or more of these steps could result in infertility:

  • A person with ovaries must release an egg, which travels into the fallopian tube.
  • A partner’s sperm must join with the egg to fertilize and create an embryo. This happens inside the fallopian tube.
  • The fertilized embryo must go toward the uterus, traveling through the open, normal fallopian tube.
  • Once in the uterus, the embryo must attach (“implant”) to the uterus lining.

What causes infertility?

The answer to this question is different for everyone, as there are many possible causes of infertility — from genetics to lifestyle choices. To break things down into two categories:

For bodies that produce sperm:

“Male factor” infertility accounts for at least one-third of infertility cases. It can be caused due to low sperm production, abnormal sperm shape or structure, blockages that prevent the sperm from meeting the egg, or poor motility (the ability of sperm to move). Additionally, certain medications, health conditions, and environmental or lifestyle choices may also contribute. Learn more about the causes here»

For bodies that produce eggs:

“Female factor” infertility also accounts for at least one-third of infertility cases. To get pregnant, there needs to be functioning ovaries, fallopian, and a uterus — however, there are conditions that can negatively affect any one of these organs. This may include health conditions (like PCOS or endometriosis), increased age, diminished ovarian reserve (your body produces fewer eggs than expected at your age), fallopian tube obstruction, hormone problems, physical characteristics of the uterus, lifestyle choices, etc.

And in some cases, the cause of infertility isn’t clear or may be due to a combination of factors. There are many different treatment options, tailored to individual situations.

What treatments are available to treat infertility?

Infertility treatment depends on the underlying cause of your fertility issues, your age, length of experiencing infertility, and personal preferences. Some common treatments include:

  • Medication: Fertility drugs can help stimulate ovulation or increase sperm count.
  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI): Placing sperm inside the uterus (rather than in the vagina), to give them a head start past the cervix.
  • Assisted reproductive technologies (ART): This umbrella term covers in-vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and other laboratory techniques, which can help couples, or individuals conceive when other methods have failed.
  • Surgery: Surgery can correct structural issues causing fertility problems, such as fibroids, polyps, congenital anomalies, endometriosis, and blockages in the reproductive tract.

If you’ve been struggling to conceive, we welcome you to take the first step and make an appointment for an evaluation.

What about stress, depression, anxiety, and infertility?

Dealing with fertility issues can be incredibly tough, both emotionally and mentally. Patients may experience an array of emotions, from anxiety and depression to guilt and loneliness. If you're struggling with any of these emotions, it's important to reach out for help.

As an ACRM patient, you’ll have access to a free monthly support group to get support, share coping strategies, and reduce feelings of isolation. If you’d like more frequent counseling, your patient care coordinator can assist you with a referral to an ACRM trusted source.

If I already had a baby, could I be infertile now?

Yes — secondary infertility is when a couple has difficulty conceiving after already having had a child. This can be just as emotionally tough as primary infertility, but help is still available. Secondary infertility shares many similar causes as primary infertility and if you suspect this is happening to you, schedule an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist or urologist for an evaluation.

Can I reduce my risk of infertility?

While you may not have control of everything when it comes to infertility causes, you can control your lifestyle. Smoking, excessive drinking, and drug use can negatively affect your fertility. Maintaining a healthy weight (a BMI between 19 and 25) and managing stress is also key to increasing your chances of conceiving.

Stress doesn't cause infertility, but it may make it harder to get pregnant. When you're stressed, your body produces hormones that can interfere with ovulation. To reduce stress, try some of these relaxation techniques.

These changes may not happen overnight but can help make conception more likely and increase your chances of having a healthy, full-term pregnancy.

How can ACRM help?

When it comes to infertility, choosing the right fertility clinic is essential in helping you on your path to parenthood. With over 20 years of experience, we're so proud to have helped so many individuals and couples achieve their dream: a healthy baby.

Our team of experienced fertility specialists is here to provide you with the individualized care and support you need throughout your journey. Our high success rates and stellar reputation have earned us many recognitions and awards — but don’t just take our word for it. Read our success stories on our website and social media for an inside look at our ACRM community.

Request an appointment today to get started!