Fertility/infertility is a private and deep topic. Most people don’t go around just talking about it, and those who do are probably a little strange. Like miscarriages, usually the subject doesn’t come up at all until you confide in someone that you are having trouble and then they suddenly share with you that they had the same problem.
Infertility can be caused by a variety of problems. Some of the most common are:
- low sperm count
- testicular trauma, infection (including having the Mumps, for the man)
- lack of ovulation (anovulation)
- lack of cervical mucus
- endometriosis, fibroids, tumors, or polycystic ovarian syndrome
- blocked fallopian tubes
- chemical or immune reactions between partners’ chemistry that prevents conception
- latent effects of birth control (namely, the Pill)
- diabetes, infections, or chemotherapy, either present or past
- thyroid or pituitary problems (female)
- STDs, or effects of STD medications
And obviously impotence, removal/severance of reproductive organs, and pre-menopause are no-go’s. But many couples experiencing fertility problems don’t have any of these factors. They are simply timing their intercourse patterns wrong. Any fertile couple will have between a 1 and 4 chance and a 1 in 10 chance of conceiving in any given month. If more than a year goes by with effort but no results, doctors may suggest going to an infertility clinic for treatment… usually in vitro fertilization (IVF).
So while I don’t pretend to be an expert on fertility/infertility, if you want to get pregnant and you’re having trouble, there is a really good book called “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler. I would try this or something like it before taking the next invasive step of seeking medical assistance. The cost and psychological impact of doctoral help for infertility is often underestimated. When I worked at the Duke University Infertility Clinic for awhile, I have to confess that it was one of the most depressed environments I have ever been in. The atmosphere was thick with depression, hesitancy, and exhaustion. Obviously not everyone experienced these emotions, but I am just warning you that it is not an easy process. The husband is often put out too, and there can be stress in the marriage once doctors get involved with your intimate life.
Toni Weschler’s book talks about four helpful factors when it comes to fertility.
- Charting your cycle on the calendar
- Basal body temperature
- Cervical fluid
- Cervical position
While the amount of information can be a little overwhelming for someone not so acquainted with their body, it is very very good. A couple of my friends who were having trouble getting pregnant for several years finally found out that they had some patterns which pretty much ensured that they were missing their fertility window almost every time! As soon as they got some information, they were pregnant with no problem. One of the most startling facts I learned in her book is that a woman is only fertile, technically, for about 24 hours. While it is possible for intercourse to lead to pregnancy up to several days beforehand, I finally understood why the timing was so delicate. Nowadays they have these ovulation tests—I haven’t heard how well they work. But I would imagine combining them with the knowledge in the book would be a very powerful strategy.