Concerning your Health
Dr. Thomas Thorson
Why can’t I get pregnant?
Ten to 15 percent of couples in the United States experience infertility problems. From 50 to 60 percent of the time, the cause is solely related to the female and the rest of the time it may be male-related or a combination of male-female factors. Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant despite having frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year. If that applies to you, there may be various causes. If you are a woman age 30 or order who has been trying for six months or a woman under age 30 who has been trying for a year, an appointment with an OB/GYN is recommended.
What causes infertility in women?
The most common causes include fallopian tube damage or blockage, endometriosis, ovulation disorders, elevated prolactin, polycystic ovary syndrome, early menopause, benign uterine fibroids, sexually transmitted diseases and pelvic adhesions. Other common causes can include use of certain medications, thyroid problems, certain cancers-particularly female reproductive cancers-and resulting treatment.
Is there anything I can do to improve fertility?
Reduce caffeine consumption. Some studies suggest excessive caffeine can impair fertility in women. Smoking also is linked to reduced fertility and increased risk of miscarriage. Give up alcohol. There is no safe level of alcohol usage during conception or pregnancy. If you’re overweight or even underweight, particularly if the weight is related to eating disorders or very restrictive diets, you may be decreasing your fertility. In some studies, exercising more than seven hours a week has been associated with ovulation problems.
Does my age impact my ability to get pregnant?
After about age 32, fertility begins to decline. Older women are also more likely to have health problems that may interfere with fertility. The risk of miscarriage also increases with your age.
When should we consult a physician?
If you are a woman older than 30 who hasn’t menstruated in six months, you have a history of irregular or painful menstrual cycles, pelvic pain, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease or repeated miscarriages, make an appointment with a gynecologist now. Otherwise, if you are in good health, give your efforts at least one year before making an appointment with an OB/GYN.
What will the OB/GYN do?
You will receive a thorough physical examination to rule out or confirm possible causes. Because successful conception involves both you and your partner, your partner will also need to become involved. You will both undergo a comprehensive infertility examination.
What should I do before my initial appointment?
Record your history of trying to get pregnant. When did you start trying to conceive? How often do you have intercourse? What is your menstrual history? What is the regularity of your cycle? Also, record key medication and information, such as diagnoses, illnesses and other conditions related to both you and your partner. If money is a consideration, check with your insurance company to be sure evaluation and treatment will be covered. Medical plans do not always cover infertility treatment.
Shari Orser, MD, a board certified OB/GYN, sees patients at Sanford Obstetrics & Gynecology in Bismarck. She has special interests in high-risk pregnancies and infertility. Dr. Orser is a graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine.