About 7 – 17% of all couples planning on having a baby will have trouble conceiving. Many of them can expect to wait an average of three years before conceiving, and, as a result, very few doctors will consider a diagnosis of infertility until after at least one year has passed. Many women wait until their careers are established before they try to conceive, so conception can be more difficult.
Infertility is a disease or condition of the reproductive system. It is often diagnosed after a couple has been unable to conceive after having had one year of unprotected, well-timed intercourse or if the woman has suffered from multiple miscarriages.
Not only does the woman's condition play a role, but male factors can also exert influence on infertility. Approximately 45% of infertility is due to female factors and 40% is due to male factors. Infertility results in 5% of all cases from problems with both partners, and in approximately 10% of cases, the cause is unexplained.
For a better understanding of what infertility is and what it implies, you should get informed about the common causes of infertility.
Infertility can be caused by different factors, which can be divided into hormonal and medical.
Hormonal causes of infertility
The proper amount of hormones, like progesterone and estrogen, is crucial to a woman who is trying to become pregnant. Estrogen thickens the lining of the uterine wall, and progesterone prepares the uterine wall for implantation of the fertilized egg. Without adequate levels of these hormones, menstruation is triggered, which naturally results in the loss of the unfertilized egg. Proper levels of these hormones are also necessary for implantation and a sustained pregnancy.
Medicinal causes of infertility
Medical causes include all disorders, abnormalities, or diseases that a woman can have that would prevent her body from carrying a pregnancy to full term. Read the text below and learn about the most common medical causes of infertility.
Endometriosis is a disorder of the female reproductive system in which endometrial tissue (the normal lining of the uterus) is found outside the uterine cavity. This can cause scarring and alter the uterus, making implantation difficult. About 30 – 50% of women with this condition are infertile.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition characterized by the accumulation of cysts (fluid-filled sacs) on the ovaries associated with high male hormone levels. PCOS symptoms include, in addition to infertility, irregular or absent periods, lack of ovulation, weight gain, acne, and excessive facial hair.
Premature ovarian failure is defined as the loss of ovarian function at a young age (before age 40), resulting in infertility. The cessation of the ovarian function leads to the end of regular periods and the start of menopause-like symptoms, including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and bladder control problems.
Uterine Factors. Abnormalities of the uterus can have a significant impact on the ability of a woman to conceive and to carry a pregnancy successfully. Some women have an abnormally-developed uterus from birth (congenital), while others may develop a uterine problem due to infection or surgery (acquired).
The term "poor responder" is used to define women who require large doses of stimulants and who make only a small amount of eggs. With a small number of eggs, the chances for fertilization are likewise small.
Risk Factors and Triggers
In some cases, you may be able to take action to prevent or counter infertility. However, some infertility factors (e.g., age) cannot be influenced, but unbalanced hormonal levels, for example, can be treated easily. For more information about how certain factors influence infertility, read the text below.
- Age. A woman's age can affect her fertility. The chance of pregnancy decreases with older age, caused by a smaller number of eggs, and the risk of chromosomal abnormalities in the eggs – and subsequently miscarriage – increases, especially after a woman's late thirties.
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). aving multiple sex partners and not using condoms may increase the risk of STDs that can cause infertility in men and women.
- Smoking. Smoking may increase the risk of infertility in women and may reduce sperm production in men.
- Unbalanced hormone levels. The proper amount of hormones like progesterone and estrogen is crucial to a woman who is trying to become pregnant. For example, without enough progesterone, implantation cannot occur.
- Being underweight. Body fat levels between 10 – 15% below normal can completely shut down the reproductive process.
Nowadays, there are many infertility treatment options available, and the chance of a successful treatment is very high. Infertility can be treated. At least 50% of those who complete an infertility evaluation will respond to treatment and have a successful pregnancy. Below, you can read all about the most common infertility treatments, starting with hormonal treatments - including three approaches to balancing hormones - and continuing with advanced reproductive technologies.
Hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone play a very important role in the female body. If hormone levels fluctuate, it has effects on the whole body. This could affect mood and sexual desire, as well as fertility and pregnancy. In fact, the imbalance of estrogen and progesterone can cause infertility. These are just some of the reasons why it is very important to keep hormone levels in balance.
Synthetic hormones are one option, but before you make the choice of taking synthetic hormones, you might want to consider less risky approaches, like alternative medicine or lifestyle changes. The medical establishment is becoming increasingly interested in alternatives to hormone replacement therapy ever since it has been associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer and blood clots.
Three Approaches to Treating Infertility
Three levels of approaches can be considered for infertility treatment. These are categorized as: (1) Lifestyle changes, (2) Alternative medicine, and (3) Medications and surgery. You should always start with the least risky approach - lifestyle changes - and go on to riskier approaches only if necessary.
The first level of hormonal imbalance treatment option involves no risk but may be the hardest way to go. Habits can be hard to break and form, so if you are considering this approach, you will need a strong mind and positive thinking to manage these changes.
Techniques for stress reduction (e.g., yoga), a diet rich in estrogenic food (soy, apples, alfalfa, cherries, potatoes, rice, wheat and yams), or even becoming more fit by doing regular exercises will have positive effects on your fertility.
It's not easy to follow this approach, which is why you might want to consider the next level of infertility treatment. Alternative medicine can help with infertility caused by hormonal issues in a natural and safe way.
Alternative approaches to infertility treatment involve little or no risk and can be considered a safe way of treating hormonal imbalance. In this approach, herbal remedies have established themselves as the best treatments.
There are basically two types of herbs for treating unbalanced hormonal levels: phytoestrogenic and hormone-regulating herbs. Phytoestrogenic herbs (e.g., black cohosh, soy) contain estrogenic components produced by plants. Though these herbs are good for treating low estrogen levels because they replace some of the missing estrogen, they aren't the best solution for treating hormonal imbalance. As a result of adding hormones from outside, the body eventually becomes less able to produce estrogen and progesterone on its own. This causes a further decrease in the body's own hormone levels.
Unlike phytoestrogenic herbs, hormone-regulating herbs don't contain any estrogen. These herbs nourish the hormonal glands, helping them produce the body's own natural hormones more efficiently. This ultimately ends up in balancing not only estrogen, but also progesterone and testosterone. In other words, hormone-regulating herbs stimulate the body's own hormone production by inducing the optimal functioning of the pituitary and other endocrine glands. Thus, hormone-regulating herbs, like Macafem, can be considered the safest way to naturally treat infertility related to hormonal imbalance.
From Nature & Health magazine, Dr. Gloria Chacon says:
A combination of different approaches for infertility treatment is a good route to take. Lifestyle changes combined with alternative medicine will probably take care of hormone-related infertility problems in a more efficient way. Nonetheless, there will always be some women who need or want to go through the third level of approach, medications and surgery.
Drugs and surgery
Surgery is a treatment option for both male and female infertility. Generally, it is used to correct structural problems, such as endometriosis and uterine fibroids (non-cancerous growths that often occur on or in the uterus walls).
There is a variety of drugs used to treat infertility. It is important to understand the most common fertility drugs and what their purpose is and to speak with your physician about the medications that will be used in your specific treatment plan.
Interventions at this level involve the highest risk and often the highest costs. The most common drug therapy for treating hormonal imbalance in the U.S. is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). There's no doubt that this is the quickest and strongest way to combat hormonal imbalance, but, unfortunately, it entails serious side effects and potentially increases the risk of different cancer types, as the following study has shown.
In some cases, HRT may be one of the only viable options. Be sure to talk at length with your physician about the risks and benefits of this treatment option.
These three levels of approaches to infertility treatment are not mutually exclusive. You can use different approaches at different times or combine several at the same time. Nowadays, more and more women find that dealing with infertility is best accomplished via a combination of healthy lifestyle adjustments and alternative treatments.
A safe way of treating infertility
Advanced Reproductive Technologies
These infertility treatments use advanced medical techniques to combine sperm and eggs. Most couples go through extensive infertility evaluation and try alternative treatments before being considered for one of these infertility options.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
Intrauterine insemination is most commonly referred to as artificial insemination. It is a relatively quick procedure and is performed in the doctor's office without any anesthesia. IUI should not be painful, although some women report mild discomfort. In this infertility treatment, the woman is injected with carefully-prepared sperm from her partner or a donor. IUI is often performed in conjunction with ovulation-stimulating medications. It is used to treat unexplained infertility or in women with cervical mucus problems.
Assisted reproductive technology (ART)
Assisted reproductive technology is a procedure in which a woman's ovaries are stimulated, her eggs surgically removed, combined with sperm, and returned to a woman's body. ART can include any of several types of medical treatment, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT), embryo cryopreservation, egg or embryo donation, and gestational carriers, all designed to result in pregnancy. IVF is the most widely used of the ART procedures.
In vitro fertilization (IVF)
IVF is a highly sophisticated, meticulously-timed procedure that involves removing a ripened egg or eggs from the female's ovary, fertilizing it with semen, incubating the dividing cells in a laboratory dish, and then placing the developing embryo in the uterus at the appropriate time.