Deciding to start a family can be one of the most rewarding (and let’s face it, stressful) things a couple can do together. But if you’ve been trying to conceive without success for some time, niggling doubts about your or your partners fertility can start to become a real source of anxiety. The first thing to be aware of is that this issue is a lot more common than you might think, with one in six American couples battling at some point to get pregnant. There are some very easy steps you can take and remember that there is excellent professional help available should it come to that. If you’re battling to conceive, then step one is definitely not stressing out about it!
What is infertility?
In women, the technical definition of infertility is an inability to conceive after one year of trying, and within six months for women over 35. In 30 to 40% of cases, the issue is with the male partner. Your first port of call should be a visit to your OB/GYN, who will then refer you on to a suitable fertility treatment center if there isn’t an obvious physical issue. Remember that some prescription drugs can interfere with fertility, including certain antidepressants and even over-the-counter allergy medications. If this can be ruled out early, then there’s one less thing to worry about. Making some healthy lifestyle changes can have a big impact too – such as quitting smoking or drinking and including more fruits and veggies in your diet. Stress is of course another big factor, so making these positive lifestyle changes can help indirectly too.
Get support and begin fertility testing
Beginning fertility testing can be a daunting experience for both partners, so it’s wise to choose a facility that focuses on psychological support as well as medical intervention. Facilities like Wijnland Fertility in the Stellenbosch area have a dedicated team of counselors who have helped hundreds of couples conceive, and will be able to explain all your options to you in a supportive environment.
Fertility treatment is a rapidly expanding science, and there are ever more options available to couples. While the process generally begins with blood work for the woman and a semen analysis for the man, there are several options to choose from depending on the outcome. It might be necessary to find a surrogate, or simple IVF treatment can be another option – let the experts guide you and offer the emotional support you need. Fertility medications are also widely available, and if the issue is a physical one, surgical treatment to correct the underlying issue can often be performed too.
Don’t give up
Some couples get lucky and manage to conceive on their first round of treatment, and for some it takes longer. If you’re beginning to feel overwhelmed by the process at any point, speak openly to your doctor and consider taking a break. You might want to start exploring other alternatives, such as adoption or becoming foster parents. Take the time to explore these ideas with an open mind, as giving any child the chance for a better future is never a bad thing.
Many couples find joining fertility forums and support groups to be immensely helpful, as you’ll have the chance to talk with people who know exactly what you’re going through. Improvements in technology such as the innovative Embryoscope means that success rates are constantly improving, and there are plenty of treatment options, from IVF, to ICSI, IMSI, embryo freezing and many more. Even if these fail, there are still other options like using a sperm or egg donor or finding a surrogate. When you and your partner’s gametes are used for this process, the child is yours biologically speaking, although you will need to check what the applicable laws in your country are – again, the experts will be able to help.
There are few human desires stronger than the urge to have our own children, and it can be heartbreaking for couples when they feel they don’t have any other options or know who to turn to. But as we’ve hopefully demonstrated, there really are a lot of options, and even couples who have battled for years to get pregnant are frequently successful. The most important thing is that you support each other and reach out for help and advice when you need it. Having a child is quite literally a team effort, after all – so make sure you’re on each other’s side!