A couple is regarded as having a fertility problem when they have not conceived after 12 months of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. About 15% of Australian couples of reproductive age have a fertility problem. Find that hard
to believe? That’s because most of them don’t talk about
it. Infertility is not just a female problem. In about 40%
of infertile couples, the problem is a male factor, in about
40% it is a female one. For the remaining 20%, it is a
joint problem or the cause is unknown, which is known
as ‘idiopathic’. The important thing to remember is that
it is no-one’s ‘fault’. The causes of infertility are many
and varied. Some common causes are: problems with the production of sperm or eggs, with the fallopian tubes or
the uterus; endometriosis; frequent miscarriage; poor sperm quality; as well as hormonal and autoimmune (antibody) disorders in both men and women.
Treatments for infertility are many and varied. Some common treatments are: medications to improve production of eggs, or to improve numbers or quality of sperm (less common); surgery on the fallopian tubes to fix blockages; insemination of the woman with donor sperm or sometimes with her partner’s sperm; In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and related treatments such as GIFT. Some people try natural treatments, such as herbs, acupuncture and meditation.
Infertility treatments are not successful for all people.
‘Just relaxing’ or taking a holiday does not cure infertility. For 80% of couples there is a proven medical cause. For those for whom there is not an explainable cause (‘idiopathic’ infertility), all that we know is that medical science is not yet able to find the cause. There is no evidence to suggest that stress causes infertility. There is plenty of evidence, however, that infertility causes stress!
Adoption doesn’t “cure” infertility. You have probably heard
of – or perhaps you know – a couple who was infertile for years, then adopted, then became pregnant. Perhaps you thought that it was because the couple “stopped thinking about it” that they were able to conceive. A number of research projects have looked into this phenomenon, and found that infertile couples
who don’t adopt have the same chance of becoming pregnant after a certain number of years as infertile couples who do adopt. This is because a small percentage of infertile coupes
will always manage to conceive after a number of years. We probably just hear more about the ones who’ve adopted.
Some couples will opt to create a family by adoption. Others
will remain without children.