Are You Struggling To Get Pregnant Naturally?
Every year, millions of couples try to get pregnant without success. Some people believe that an unsuccessful pregnancy means infertility, but things aren’t so black and white. Fertility is a delicate procedure that operates on a range. While 6% of couples are infertile, some can suffer from subfertility. Getting a clear understanding of the fertility spectrum can help couples to decide to keep trying or consider IVF.
Subfertility vs infertility
On average, most couples trying to get pregnant should be successful within 6 to 12 months. When that fails, the question of subfertility and infertility comes to mind. Doctors will usually discover that patients who are subfertile and infertile have similar causes. The definitions are a matter of time. Subfertility refers to couples trying to get pregnant for more than 6 months but less than a year. Infertility refers to couples who fail to get pregnant for at least one year. Someone considered infertile is unable to get pregnant without medical support.
Reasons for subfertility
Subfertility does not mean that an individual or a couple cannot get pregnant. The timeframe to get pregnant will be longer compared to a fertile couple. Anyone struggling to get pregnant for at least 6 months should visit a doctor or reproductive specialist. The specialist will perform tests on both parties to find the reason for subfertility.
- For women, reasons for subfertility include PCOS, blocked fallopian tubes, or a diminished ovarian reserve.
- For men, poor sperm quality, diminished sperm quantity, varicocele, or erectile dysfunction can cause subfertility.
- Both can suffer from hormone imbalances, genetic defects, STIs, or chronic illnesses like diabetes or obesity.
The doctor could also uncover no apparent reason for subfertility. So at this point, the condition is considered unexplained.
Infertility has added complications
Ironically, all of the reasons for subfertility can cause infertility. However, there are some added reasons a man, woman, or couple can have infertility:
- Some men have severe oligospermia, which is a low sperm count, while others have azoospermia, where no sperm is present in the ejaculate.
- Women can have past ectopic pregnancies, tubal damage, or uterine disorders.
These cases can reduce the chances of pregnancy to less than 5%. Infertility should not be confused with sterility. Sterility means there's no chance to get pregnant without assisted reproductive technology (ART).
Should you wait and see?
The reproductive specialist will guide hopeful patients on the best course of action. Couples can keep trying naturally, especially those younger than 35. Taking the wait-and-see approach can also help with unexplained infertility. Subfertile couples can try as much as an additional year before exploring medical help. Infertile couples, however, would have tried to get pregnant for at least one year already. At this point, medical help will be the best course of action, especially for couples older than 35.
Turning to IVF
At some point, couples should consider in vitro fertilization or IVF. The time for IVF is delicate as each fertility diagnosis is different. However, the fertility specialist will advise when IVF is best. IVF is when egg and sperm samples are extracted to create an embryo in a fertility lab. The mature embryo is then implanted into the woman's uterus. The clinic can perform additional techniques like ICSI or assisted hatching to improve the success rate of IVF.
The right steps at the right time
Getting pregnant naturally is never guaranteed. Some couples can get pregnant in short order, while others take much longer. As time goes on, constant negative pregnancy tests could be concerning but is often not an infertility diagnosis. Instead, the issue could be subfertility, meaning pregnancy will take much longer. To be on the safe side, both parties should get a complete reproductive health check. If all goes well, pregnancy may happen in the coming months. But if a year or more has passed without success, doctors recommend IVF.