What is Infertility?

In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week we are launching an educational series of blog posts. Our first topic is to define infertility. Let me be very clear that a diagnosis of infertility doesn't mean you'll never be able to have a baby. But it may mean that getting pregnant is not going to be as easy for you as it seems to be for oh, let's say, everyone else in the world.  That's how it feels when you're trying to conceive and everyone around you is getting pregnant. Here is the official definition of infertility as provided by RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association

Infertility is a disease or condition of the reproductive system often diagnosed after a couple has had one year of unprotected, well-timed intercourse, or if the woman has suffered from multiple miscarriages and the woman is under 35 years of age. If the woman is over 35 years old, it is diagnosed after 6 months of unprotected, well-timed intercourse.

I have one criticism of this definition and it's that it assumes everyone is coupled. I work with single women trying to conceive as well and I would love to see more inclusive language. Otherwise this is a really clear-cut explanation of what is a very upsetting situation. 

One of the most frequent misunderstandings I hear about infertility is that women with multiple miscarriages are not experiencing infertility.  They will say, "I'm not infertile. I can get pregnant easily. I just lose the pregnancies."  So it's important to know that the goal is a live birth. Repeated pregnancies take an emotional and physical toll on all involved. Proper testing and diagnosis may help you avoid repeated losses and the pain resulting from those losses.

If you'll notice they assign different criteria for infertility to women over the age of 35. The prime-time to make a baby, for women, peaks in the twenties and then begins to decline as we age.  Women over the age of 35 are entering the window of decreased fertility as they approach menopause. This is natural but often too soon, for many women.  Since time is not on your side it's best to get checked out after 6 months of well-timed 'trying"  to get a proper diagnosis and increase your chances of having the baby of your dreams.

Lastly, I'd like to make a quick mention that infertility can be the result of treatment for other medical problems such as cancer. If you've been through radiation treatment, chemotherapy or had surgery that may have affected your reproductive system it would be good to get some basic testing done before you start trying to conceive to ensure your reproductive system is functioning properly.

There are many ways to overcome infertility. Becoming educated is the first and most important step along the way. Tune in for more educational posts this coming week.

Here's a great link to learn more. Fertility 101