Before Baby - Week 2
How do you know if infertility is an issue for you, and what should you do if you suspect it is? If you’re thinking about parenthood, let us answer some of your pressing questions.
What is infertility?
You’ve probably heard the term ‘infertility’, but do you know what it actually means? Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive a pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse. It’s more common than you’d think, affecting around one in six Aussie couples of reproductive age.
To help us understand infertility, check out the answers to some of these common questions.
What are the most common causes of infertility?
In women, the main causes of infertility are:
- Ovulation issues or irregular periods – not ovulating, or having irregular or no periods
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – this common hormone problem is the leading cause of infertility
- Endometriosis – a condition where uterus-lining cells grow outside the uterus
- Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes - this can impact the sperm’s ability to reach the egg.
- Uterine fibroids – benign lumps of tissue that can grow around and inside the uterus.
Sometimes, you may not know that you have underlying conditions like PCOS or ovulation issues until you start trying to conceive without success. This is one of the reasons why it makes sense to come off any form of contraception a month or two before starting to try. It may take your body some time to adjust, and you’ll be able to track your natural cycle to get the timing right - or to seek advice from a GP if your cycle continues to be irregular.
For men, the most common causes are:
- Abnormal sperm production – having a lower-than-normal sperm production, no sperm present at all, or having a high proportion of sperm that is abnormally shaped
- High sperm DNA fragmentation - this can affect a sperms ability to fertilise an egg
- Sperm antibodies – it’s not common, but sometimes anti-sperm antibodies can interfere with mobility and fertilisation.
It’s good to be aware that male infertility is the second biggest issue after a woman’s age. Thankfully, though, there are several treatments available to help a couple make the best of sperm quality and quantity as it is and achieve a pregnancy.
Ok, so how is infertility treated?
There’s a range of fertility treatments available – the right ones for you will depend on what your fertility test results indicate. Treatments may include ovulation cycle tracking, ovulation induction, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilisation or fertility surgery. We’ll go into more detail on this in next week’s issue. There are also some advanced science options such as pre-implantation genetic testing – which we’ll delve into more in Week 4.
If you already know some of the factors we mentioned apply to you, and it’s taking longer than you expected to fall pregnant, we’re here to help.
Contact us to book an appointment with a fertility specialist.
Couples fertility check-up
If you’ve been trying to conceive for some time, you might be worried something is not quite right. But when should you seek help from a specialist? And what tests might they arrange to assess you or your partner’s fertility? We’ve got the answers.
If you’ve already been trying to get pregnant for more than 12 months – or more than six months if you’re over the age of 35 – without success, it’s a good idea to book a couples fertility health check. Here’s a quick overview of the kinds of tests available to help determine what’s going on.
- AMH test
This tests your levels of the anti-mullerian hormone, indicating your ovarian reserve. Although the test doesn’t reveal the quality of your eggs, it will give a good indication of the quantity of your eggs remaining and compare that to others in your age group.
If you have a low AMH result, it's easy to think “Oh dear, I’m infertile”. But the reality is, women who have a low ovarian reserve and women who have a high ovarian reserve fall pregnant naturally at exactly the same rate – age is still the primary factor. It sounds confusing, but both women are releasing one egg per month and the AMH test doesn’t tell us what the quality of that egg is. What it does tell us though, is whether you might want to consider your reproductive options sooner rather than later.
- Semen analysis
The most important male fertility test is the semen analysis, which measures the quality and quantity of sperm.
Fertility Fact – did you know that the lifecycle of sperm is only 72 days? In other words, those lifestyle changes we recommended in the last issue could improve the quality of sperm within just a few months!
- Pelvic ultrasound
A check of your uterus to detect conditions such as fibroids or ovarian cysts. It also provides a glimpse into the lining of your womb and can detect signs of blocked fallopian tubes.
- Ovulation test
This is a simple blood test to check if ovulation is occurring each month.
A fertility health check can provide a clear picture of your overall reproductive health and take into consideration both you and your partner’s past medical history.
A couple’s consultation with one of our participating fertility specialists, who can explain the results and develop a plan for pregnancy.
Knowledge is powerful. If you’ve been trying to conceive for some time and you're searching for answers - or you simply want to know what you’re working with - we can help make that happen.
Contact us or click here to book a check-up.
In case you missed it last week: Week 1 of Before Baby >>>>