Missed Conceptions: Infertility

In the United States, around 10 percent of couples encounter fertility problems of one sort or another. Most folks see infertility as a women’s problem, but it ain’t necessarily so.

Here's the low-down Adapted from my latest book Idiot's Guides: Pregnancy for Dads, © 2014, Alpha Books.

Disruption of the woman's ability to ovulate (known as anovulation) is a common issue in infertility. The pituitary gland or hypothalamus may malfunction, throwing off the hormone balance needed to produce fertile eggs. The ovary may be scarred or the follicles may not break open to release the egg.

Anovulation is not the only problem. Excessive growth of the uterine lining (endometriosis), polyps, cysts, tumors, or congenital problems can inhibit or prevent the uterus from hosting a successful pregnancy.

The fallopian tubes may be blocked, scarred, or infected. The mucus on the cervix may not have the right consistency or abundance to help move sperm along.

Male infertility stems from hormonal imbalance, disease, congenital defects, and lifestyle choices. As with women, disruptions in the hypothalamus, thyroid, or pituitary glands can foul up the hormone balance your sperm need to work effectively. Variocoele (basically, varicose veins in the scrotum), erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, damaged sperm ducts, infection, and other fairly rare conditions can also inhibit male fertility.

To discover the underlying problem, doctors will analyze your semen and test your partner's ovary, cervix, and other organs for issues with their structure and functioning.

However, some fertility problems go beyond the physical. Your behavior can have a major impact on whether you and your partner conceive. If you want to have a baby, medical researchers say you should avoid the following:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Smoking
  • Anabolic steroids
  • "Recreational" drugs, including marijuana
  • Exposure to environmental hazards, such as toxic chemicals and radioactivity
  • Overexercising
  • Lack of sleep
  • Excess stress

Many responses to infertility focus solely on the female, often because women are more likely to seek medical care and guidance than men. If you two have trouble getting pregnant, don't be average—be part of the solution from day one.

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