A couple is considered infertile if they have tried to get pregnant, with regular ovulation and frequent intercourse, for at least a year without achieving pregnancy. Infertility can affect both men and women, and is quite common. Given the intricate series of events that must occur at just the right moment to give birth, this is not surprising. For a child to be born, a woman’s body must:
- Have an ample reserve of healthy eggs
- Properly mature the eggs within the ovaries
- Have clear fallopian tubes that allow the sperm to meet the egg
- Develop a uterine lining at the right time to accept an embryo
- Allow proper implantation of the embryo
- Nourish the fetus
- Carry the baby until it can be born safely
A process this complex does not always go smoothly. However, there is hope. Our physicians at UNC Fertility utilize the most advanced medical techniques to help overcome many fertility issues that couples face.
Causes and Treatments
There are many factors that can affect a woman’s fertility. Several of the most common are:
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
This syndrome causes infertility by stopping the maturation and release of eggs. Women with PCOS often experience infrequent periods, weight gain, male pattern hair growth and/or balding as well as other symptoms. Treatments for PCOS may include medications, diet and exercise, or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
With this condition, the endometrium (the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus) grows outside of the uterus. The result can be scarring of the fallopian tubes, pelvic pain, inflammation and other complications. Successful treatments often include surgery, medications, or IVF.
Fertility in women begins to decline after age 30. Additionally, the chance of fetal abnormalities and genetic mutations increases. Today there are many medical options to help women extend the biological clock, including banking eggs at a younger age or testing each embryo used in IVF for chromosomal defects.
With this condition the endometrial tissue lining the uterus grows into the outer muscular wall of the uterus. This condition can be treated with medication and, occasionally, surgery.
Cancer itself, as well as cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, can damage or decrease eggs. Women facing cancer treatment may choose to freeze eggs or embryos to preserve them for use when their health is restored.
Fertility can be decreased by lifestyle choices including drinking alcohol, smoking, drug use, or being sedentary or overweight. Treatments include weight loss, proper diet, moderate exercise and avoiding potentially harmful substances.
If you are concerned about your fertility, we invite you to schedule an appointment with us. Our physicians have vast experience pinpointing the causes of infertility and successfully treating women struggling with infertility.