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Defining factors for infertility

January 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying, or six months if a woman is over 35. With 1 in 8 couples experiencing it, there are a lot of myths out there surrounding fertility. Experts clarify what's true and what's not when it comes to getting pregnant.

Ten percent of women in the United States have problems with pregnancy. With so much information out there, it's not easy for couples to separate fertility fact from fiction.

How much do you know about fertility?

Will adding more vitamins to your diet help you improve your chances of getting pregnant? The answer is no.

"I think we have absolutely no data to demonstrate that," said Dr. Celso Silva, director of the Center for Fertility Preservation, University of South Florida College of Medicine.

A healthy normal diet already has the right amount and type of vitamins we need.

Smoking: Is it OK as long as you stop when you get pregnant? No. You shouldn't smoke at all.

"We know for a fact that smoking is detrimental to male and female infertility," said Silva.

Does age matter? While about 20 percent of American women have their first baby after age 35, by age 30 you have a 20-percent chance of getting pregnant in any given month. After 35, your chances drop to 10 percent. By 40 it's 5 percent.

What about cellphone use? Could it lower your fertility? In a Cleveland Clinic study, men who used their cellphones more than four hours a day showed a 30-percent drop in sperm count.

True or false: Dairy doesn't matter. False. A Harvard Study found eating two or more low-fat dairy products increases a woman's chances of infertility by 85 percent.

Something else to consider: Many people think fertility is only a woman's problem. While about a third of infertility is due to female factors, another third is due to the male. The final third of infertility cases are because of both partners or unknown factors.


INFERTILITY: A person who is infertile has a reduced ability to have a child. A diagnosis of infertility does not necessarily mean a person is sterile-- that is, physically unable ever to have a child. Up to 15 percent of all couples are infertile, but only 1 to 2 percent are sterile. Half of couples who seek help can eventually bear a child, either on their own or with medical assistance. In about one in five infertile couples, both partners have contributing problems. In about 15 percent of couples, no cause is found after all tests have been done, called "unexplained infertility." (www.webmd.com)

WHAT CAUSES IT? A number of potential causes for infertility in both men and women exist. For example, cancer and its treatments can severely impair reproductive function and fertility in men and women. Below are some other common causes.

Male infertility: Abnormal sperm production or function due to undescended testicles, genetic defects or repeated infections; problems with delivery of sperm due to premature ejaculation or painful intercourse; health issues, such as retrograde ejaculation; certain genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis; structural problems such as blockage of the part of the testicle that contains sperm; overexposure to certain environmental factors such as pesticides and chemicals; frequent exposure to heat; age.

Female infertility: Fallopian tube damage or blockage; endometriosis, which occurs when the uterine tissue implants and grows outside of the uterus; ovulation disorders; elevated prolactin, the hormone that stimulates breast milk production, polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition in which your body produces too much of the hormone androgen; early menopause, uterine fibroids, which are benign tumors in the wall of the uterus; pelvic adhesions, bands of scar tissue that bind organs after pelvic infection, appendicitis, or abdominal or pelvic surgery; thyroid problems; medical conditions associated with delayed puberty or amenorrhea, such as Cushing's disease, sickle cell disease, kidney disease and diabetes. (www.mayoclinic.com)

ASRM: The American Society of Reproductive Medicine is a non-profit, multidisciplinary organization dedicated to the advancement of the art, science, and practice of reproductive medicine. The ASRM was founded by a small group of fertility experts who met in Chicago in 1944. Distinguished members of ASRM have led the development of the field of reproductive medicine. They were the first physicians to perform many of the standard procedures used by fertility specialists today, including donor insemination and in vitro fertilization; they have developed new approaches to contraception and ovulation induction that are still in use; and they have helped form key legislation for reproductive rights.