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Fertility in Both Sexes
Carla Garcia

There are millions of babies being born every single day. Unfortunately there are still an estimated 4.9 million American couples unable to conceive. What is causing this? I recently read an article that briefly explained this phenomenon. It was a study conducted by a Brazilian research team that argued that caffeine in coffee acts as a stimulant for sperm. Although this study is still under scrutiny, I took it upon myself to do some research on fertility.

Let’s define infertile. Infertile is defined as a woman unable to become pregnant. Sterile is defined as a woman that is unable to conceive. The difference between these two terms is this: Infertile women can get pregnant with the help of modern medicine. Industrialized countries, like the U.S., are able to use plastic insemination (also known as invetro fertilization-IVF). Sterile means that a woman will never be able to conceive or carry a child regardless of any modern medicine. (Rodi).

Now, getting the facts straight: young couples (35 years and younger) usually don’t have too much problem getting pregnant. The younger you are, and if healthy, the higher the chance of you getting pregnant through unprotected intercourse. However, once a woman is over the age of 35, her chances to conceive naturally, without any help of modern medicine, slim down to 10%. This can prove devastating to many older couples that conceive later in life, and try to reproduce later as well. However, this margin is not fact for everyone. Many women have been able to conceive naturally late in life and carry successful pregnancies. This number is true for a portion of the population, but as with all things, there are always exceptions to the rule. (Rodi).

Now, if you happen to be a woman over the age of 35 who has unsuccessfully tried to conceive for more than a year, the following is a list of symptoms possibly associated with infertility:

-irregular periods

-severe menstrual cramps, pelvic pain, and or abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge.

-a history of genital infections or diseases

-medical illnesses and the type of treatment received from them

Although all these can be reasons as to why a woman is unable to conceive, first and foremost, it is vitally important to consult with your OBGYN or an infertility specialist that would better isolate and diagnose your case.

Here is something to think about. Infertility can be caused by either partner (man or woman). It isn’t just a female ailment. In fact, more often than not, it is the man’s low sperm count that is detrimental to couple’s effort to conceive. Therefore it is important to ask your fertility expert to test both partners in order to detect where the problem may be. The doctor should be able take blood tests, ultra sounds, testing fallopian tubes, etc.

There is no single cause for infertility-it is not an ailment that can be pinpointed on one cause or one partner. However, there are several reasons that a couple can experience infertility: bad luck, no sperm or low sperm count, irregular ovulation or no ovulation, problems with the fallopian tube, or tubal infections. (Rodi).

Once a problem has been diagnosed and isolated, the practitioner then has the needed knowledge to start the right and necessary treatment. After the diagnoses, the couple is then started on the necessary fertility treatment required for their particular needs. If couples are still unable to conceive after a few months of the first session, the practitioner might try to induce ovulation with fertility drugs. The fertility drug given is dependent on the particular therapy the patient is undergoing. In most cases, drugs are given over a period of seven to ten days, the most common drug being follicle stimulating hormone (FSH); this does not mean it is the only drug available, there are other options available at the discretion of the practitioner and the patient. (Infertility: an overview).

If this therapy is unsuccessful, the patient might consider the invetro fertilization (IVF) program (remember, plastic insemination where a sperm fertilizes an egg outside of the body in a lab dish.) This particular method is quite the scientific achievement. The fertilized egg, or rather, the embryo is transferred into the woman’s uterus. This complex procedure takes only 10-20 minutes to complete. This procedure has been the saving grace for many couples. The success rate of the IVF program is high, with successful live births existing in the range of 20%. (IVF & GIFT: H Guide).

If the above procedures are unsuccessful there are other alternatives a couple might consider as well. Couples can get either sperm or egg donations, or, as in some cases, even use a surrogate mother to carry out the pregnancy. Remember that all people that either donate or act as surrogate mothers will be screened for STD’s. (Third Party Reproduction).

Infertility is an ailment shared by too many people. However, we do live in an age that allows us other options. Modern medicine has come a long way, and there is hope for people longing to conceive, it’s only a matter of deciding.

-Ingrid Rodi, M.D www.rodimd.com
-American Society for Reproductive Medicine, formerly The American Fertility Society. www.asrm.org
-Organization for Parents through Surrogacy (opts) www.opts.com
-Resolve: A national infertility support group www.resolve.com





The Women’s College Magazine at Santa Monica College
Copyright 2003 Santa Monica College