What is Infertility?

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive within 12 months of unprotected intercourse.

It is estimated that 15-20% of couples will experience infertility. Unfortunately, there is still a “stigma” associated with infertility, and many couples will not openly speak about their dilemma. Many couples will not seek any form of treatment for their problem. Additionally, there is the misconception that stress is a cause for infertility. Often, a couple will be told to “relax” and conception will occur, or “you are too young to worry about it”. By following these erroneous beliefs, couples will frequently delay consultation and treatment for their infertility problem, which for older patients, could have serious consequences and lower their chance of conceiving. It can be argued that younger women should seek treatment sooner than later, as their age does not play any role in their inability to achieve a pregnancy.

Is any one to blame?

For centuries, if a couple were unable to have a baby, the problem was deemed to be with the woman. It is now known that both men and women suffer infertility problems and they are no more common in one sex than the other. Sometimes multiple factors are involved in one or both partners.

Among couples who are infertile, about 40 per cent of cases are exclusively due to female infertility. While 40 per cent is exclusively due to male infertility, and 10 per cent to problems with both partners. In the remaining 10 per cent, the cause is unknown.

After 12 months of trying to conceive you should consult your GP or gynaecologist for a referral to a fertility specialist. A series of tests will need to be performed on you and your partner. They will give clues to the particular cause of your infertility and ultimately a treatment plan to overcome the problem.

At BioART we will look at both your medical histories. For the woman, this includes any previous pregnancies, regularity of periods, painful periods, pelvic pain, infections, or surgery. For the man this will include whether he has fathered children previously, testicular injury, developmental problems, infections, surgery and exposure to certain environmental factors.

A physical examination will also be performed which may include:

Blood tests. A series of tests will be performed to establish if there is a hormonal basis for your infertility that may be corrected by hormonal supplements. You may also be tested for rubella, blood group, sperm antibodies and sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.

Ultrasound examination. This examination will give information on what the ovaries and uterus look like. Your doctor will look at the growth of eggs, the thickness of the lining of the uterus (if thin, it can indicate hormonal problems), the presence of fibroids or polyps on the uterus, as well as signs of endometriosis or ovarian cysts. Surgical laparoscopy may also be used to identify endometriosis or blocked fallopian tubes.

Semen analysis. A semen sample from the man is required to assess the number of sperm, how well they swim (known as ‘motility’) and the presence of sperm antibodies.