The Challenge of Infertility
Infertility — the inability to achieve pregnancy after a year of trying — affects about one of every five couples. But 60% of couples who have trouble conceiving will eventually become pregnant, with or without treatment. The goal of treatment is to reduce the time it takes to conceive.
The diagnosis and treatment of infertility requires a thorough assessment of both partners. There are numerous causes of infertility, and often a specific cause cannot be identified.
Common obstacles include:
- Sperm problems, such as absence of sperm, reduced sperm count, reduced sperm movement, and increases in abnormal sperm.
- Problems with ovulation (especially lack of ovulation, or egg production).
- Problems with the fallopian tubes, especially their structure and function, so that the egg cannot travel easily from the ovary to the uterus.
- Problems with the cervix, such as cervical mucus that is inhospitable to sperm.
Treatment depends on the problem, but often involves drugs that enhance ovulation, surgery to correct varicoceles (a common abnormality in sperm-producing structures), and artificial insemination, by which sperm is collected and injected into the woman. If a man has no sperm, donor sperm can be considered for artificial insemination. The technique of in vitro fertilization takes this procedure a step further, by collecting the egg from the woman and placing it in a laboratory dish along with sperm, where it is fertilized and then implanted into the uterus.
While sperm donation and in vitro fertilization have been around for quite a while, other, ever-more-sophisticated infertility treatments are being developed. New procedures, like egg donation, give more women a chance at conceiving a child.
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