Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after regular, unprotected sex during a 12-month window, and it’s an issue shared by millions of couples in the U.S. Like all diagnoses, it’s not a final answer; it’s just a piece of information that can help you determine your next step. The underlying cause of the diagnosis varies widely, and can be linked to age, ovulation disorders, uterine fibroids, endometrial polyps, and abnormal sperm function. Stress, no surprise, may also play a big role, so practices aimed at mindfulness and relaxation may help. Testing of both partners (not just the female one) is essential to figuring out the why behind your infertility challenges. In some cases, there is no single answer. And, no surprise, these evaluations can be pricey and often involve procedures that may not be covered by your insurance. Plus, there’s no guarantee of success. If you're not quite ready for medical help, lifestyle changes for both you and your partner are the simplest place to start addressing your fertility challenges. To that end, you both should kick your harmful substance habits, get busy in the bedroom more often, exercise regularly, and make sure medications are not playing a role. Check in with a nutritionist or another practitioner who can make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals, as deficiencies can make it harder for your body to function, and that includes getting pregnant. Some of the procedures to improve fertility include surgery to reverse sperm blockages, sperm retrieval, ovarian stimulation to improve ovulation, intrauterine insemination (aka IUI), or surgery to remove endometrial polyps or scars. Assisted reproductive technology (ART) involves any treatment in which an egg and sperm are manipulated. In vitro fertilization (aka IVF) is the most common technique, but there is a long list of other options you and your partner can consider. Ask about the benefits and risks of each! Looking for ways to boost your fertility without technology? There are numerous complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) techniques many people swear by. They have not been studied as extensively, but holistic help may be just what you need. When considering things like hypnosis, mind-body relaxation techniques, and more, only acupuncture has a high level of evidence to support its use in improving fertility for both partners. You can also talk to an experienced herbalist who can help you understand plant-based remedies such as white peony root, cinnamon, licorice root, nettles, and many others. Of course, your infertility issues are as unique as you are, so make sure you work with an experienced practitioner who can identify the right formulas for your body. That's worth repeating, because with infertility, it’s especially important to consult an expert (or experts) you trust—someone who can understand and treat the underlying condition and advise you on what the outcome means going forward. Let’s be real: this can be a mega-emotional (and expensive!) process, so find a practitioner who really gets you!
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- J Am Board Family Pract. A primary care approach to the infertile couple: Clinical review. J Am Board Family Pract. A primary care approach to the infertile couple: Clinical review.