Infertility

I am a 28 year old woman. My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for six months without success. Should I be concerned?

Traditionally, infertility has been defined as one year of unprotected intercourse without conception; this affects 10-15 percent of couples during their reproductive years. In normal couples without infertility issues, there is only a 30% chance of becoming pregnant with each ovulatory cycle. By one year, 85% of couples will attain pregnancy.

When should a couple seek medical intervention? If a woman is in her mid-30s or younger, has regular menstrual cycles, and her partner is healthy - I would usually allow one year before testing extensively. Reasonable early evaluations would be a semen analysis (35% of infertility involves a male factor) and confirmation of ovulation (release of an egg) with each cycle. The latter can be done with over-the-counter urine tests, or by following a woman's body temperature throughout the cycle (called basal body temperature [BBT] charting). Medications can be used to help a woman ovulate regularly, and depending upon the male factor - artificial insemination or other technologies can be used.

We know that female fertility decreases over time; in general, the older a woman is beyond age 35, the earlier I would rule out causes for infertility. This would include a semen analysis and BBT charting as well as a pelvic ultrasound. In some cases, we might consider a test to confirm that the fallopian tubes are open (called a hysterosalpingogram or HSG), and possibly laparoscopy (camera in the abdomen) to visually assess the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Some primary care providers and nearly all OB/GYNs can provide more information about infertility and interventions that are appropriate for a couple's particular circumstances. There are also infertility specialists (reproductive endocrinologists) that can help with more complicated situations or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

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