To become parents is a dream for many, but for some, it can be a challenge to conceive, and it can be a long and difficult journey filled with frustration and grief.
Fertility refers to the ability to conceive, and while some people experience no problems, others may experience a range of challenges that make it difficult or even impossible to achieve a desired pregnancy. When a person is unable to reproduce naturally, it is known as ‘infertility’, also known as reduced fertility. In this way, infertility is a specific condition that refers to the inability to achieve a pregnancy, while ‘fertility problems’ should be understood as a broader term that covers various issues that can affect a person’s ability to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term.
Factors that affect fertility
There are many factors that can affect fertility, such as age, lifestyle, hormonal imbalances, and heredity. Some of the most common causes of infertility in men include low sperm count or quality, reduced sperm mobility, structural abnormalities in the reproductive tract, hormonal imbalances, and sexually transmitted infections. In women, causes of infertility may include ovulation problems, endometriosis, premature ovarian failure, structural problems in the fallopian tubes or uterus, and/or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCO). Meanwhile, both men and women can be affected by lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, stress, and an unhealthy diet, which can have an impact on fertility.
The cause of infertility can be found in both men and women, and in some cases, it will be factors from both partners that are the cause of the infertility. Statistically, the cause of infertility is evenly divided: about one-third is due to factors in the male partner, about one-third is due to factors in the female partner, and in one-third of cases, it is factors in both partners that are the cause.
It is, however, unfortunately not always possible to find a cause for infertility, and in such cases, it is referred to as ‘unexplained reduced fertility’.
Psychological and physical impacts
Fertility problems can have a significant impact on both the mental and physical health of those who experience them and can lead to feelings of grief, frustration, guilt, and depression. At the same time, it can also affect the relationships of those affected, including their relationships with their partner, family, and friends. Infertility is defined as “failure to achieve pregnancy after 1 year of regular unprotected sexual intercourse” and is differentiated into three categories:
- primary infertility when the woman has never been pregnant.
- secondary infertility when the woman has been pregnant before
- and recurrent pregnancy loss when infertility is due to the loss of 3 or more desired pregnancies.
For couples experiencing infertility and fertility problems, there are several treatment options to consider:
- Medical treatment: to regulate hormones and promote or support ovulation.
- Assisted reproductive techniques:
In vitro fertilization (IVF)
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
Donor eggs or sperm
- Surgical procedures to correct structural problems in the reproductive system.
- Counselling and support groups to help cope with the emotional and mental aspects of infertility.
It is important to remember that fertility problems can be a sensitive and challenging experience for many couples and individuals. It is essential to seek help from a qualified doctor or fertility specialist, who can guide you through the various treatment options and support you on your journey to building a family. It can also be worthwhile to discuss the situation with others who have undergone similar experiences, as this can provide a supportive network and a sense of community. Additionally, seeking counselling or therapy can be beneficial in helping to process any emotions and concerns that may arise as a result of fertility problems.
Other options for starting a family
If it is not possible to achieve pregnancy through natural or medical methods, there are several alternative options for building a family. One of these options is adoption, where people open their hearts and homes to children who have already been born but, for various reasons, cannot live with their biological parents. Another option is surrogacy, where a woman carries and gives birth to a child on behalf of a couple or an individual who, for one reason or another, cannot achieve the desired pregnancy themselves. For some people, fostering. Fostering provides temporary care and support to children who have been removed from their biological families due to abuse, neglect, or other challenges. In some cases, foster parents may end up adopting the children if it is in the child’s best interest and if a permanent solution is necessary. Receiving a donor embryo may also be worth considering as a way to build a family. Donor embryos are fertilized eggs that have been donated by couples who have undergone fertility treatment and have surplus embryos. These embryos can be transferred to a woman who wants to become pregnant and can be an option for those who have had unsuccessful attempts with their own eggs or sperm.
Going through fertility problems can be a challenging process. However, there are many resources and treatment options available to help couples and individuals in their quest to start or grow a family. It is important to remember that there is no “right” way to build a family, and what works best for one person, or couple may not be the best solution for another. By seeking support, exploring all available options, and working closely with a fertility specialist, you can take steps towards realizing the dream of becoming a parent.