I’m going to cut to the chase, we’ve been traditionally taught that sex creates babies. While this concept may be generally true, since the activity can involve the release of seminal fluid into the vaginal tract, it is important to know that the majority of day to day human sexual interactions do NOT yield pregnancy. For persons who are experiencing trouble with achieving pregnancy, modern technology can help make dreams of having a baby come true. At the Nevada Fertility Institute, patients are given a wide range of choices which when coupled with proven medical expertise can guide you towards the journey of creating life. But first, let us try to understand the instances where issues may arise during the process of procreation.
What Can Be the Issue?
The concept of fertilization is quite easy to understand – like combining two elements to create a whole new substance that exhibits the characteristics of the parent chemicals – sperm and egg need to successfully come together to form an embryo capable of implanting into the womb. However, most people who are actively trying to conceive are unaware that difficulty conceiving is quite common. Based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, around 12% of couples have difficulty conceiving. Like a tree with many branches, let’s explore how our reproductive system might develop issues.
Spotlight on the sperm: Measuring only 50 micrometers in length, ejaculated sperm have to travel a long distance to make it to the fallopian tube and this results in most sperm expiring before getting to the prized egg. A fertility specialist relies on a Semen Analysis (SA) to look into the health of the sperm and their ability to successfully complete this journey. When reviewing a SA, the specialist is looking at the total count of the sperm in a semen sample (concentration) in addition to how those sperm move (motility) and how they are shaped (morphology). Other less important pieces of information which may be gleaned from a SA include a measure of the level of acidity of the semen (pH), the total volume of semen ejaculated, the level of fructose in the semen and the time it takes the semen to become liquid (liquefaction).
We do not make new eggs! It is important that anyone who has ovaries knows that oocytes (eggs) experience aging too. That’s right, all of a person’s eggs are formed before they are born and you do not continue to make new eggs after birth. Instead, egg numbers steadily decline from the time that you are born and continue to do so until you enter menopause. Additionally, as you age, the energy in the egg is decreased and thus, these older eggs have greater chances of experiencing errors in the combination of genetic material, following fertilization by sperm with resulting aneuploidy or irregular chromosome number in an embryo and baby…thereby increasing chances for medical conditions such as Down’s Syndrome. Scientists often refer to this as the maternal age. Because of this, conception at age 35 or older can come with challenges and sometimes unexpected pregnancy outcomes.
Although babies grow in the uterus (womb), for intercourse or intrauterine insemination (IUI) pregnancies, the fertilization of an egg by sperm actually happens in the fallopian tube. If fertilization is successful, the embryo then rolls its way down the fallopian tube and implants in the womb. This means that if the fallopian tubes are unhealthy, blocked or scarred, pregnancy resulting in a liveborn baby may not happen. Instead, if fertilization occurs in an unhealthy fallopian tube, the embryo may get trapped in the tube where it then implants and causes a life threatening emergency known as a tubal ectopic pregnancy. Scarring or blockage of the fallopian tubes can happen following infections such as chlamydia or pelvic inflammatory disease. Scarring or blockage can also be the result of endometriosis. If both tubes are scarred, blocked or removed, then modern science, in the form of assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF) will become necessary.
The Disruptors: Factors that Affect Fertility
Our ability to reproduce can be negatively affected by chemicals which interfere with our hormonal system. These are known as endocrine disruptors and they can be found in some of the foods that we eat on a regular basis, in the packaging of our foods, in some containers and even in some cosmetics. Being mindful of what we put into and on our bodies is critically important to the health of both eggs and sperm but also for the overall health of your body and the ability to carry a pregnancy safely. It is essential to take these factors into account when preparing to conceive. Also, before making your first appointment with a fertility specialist, here is a simplified to-do list to check on.
Check Your Lifestyle
The things that you do with your body can have an adverse effect on the normal functioning of your b system. It is imperative that you evaluate your current lifestyle and try to change any unhealthy habits that you identify. This includes assessing and evaluating your diet with emphasis on the makeup of your diet: it should be a balanced diet full of whole grains, omega fatty acids, water and low to moderate carbohydrates. Other lifestyle factors include getting regular exercise and getting enough sleep.
Know Your Age
Age limits our abilities to do the things we used to do as kids. Similarly, our bodies feel the effects of deterioration, too. Because pregnancy is a 40 week mission which asks a lot of a woman’s body, knowing the impact of age on a person’s fertility, is important. Moreover, you should consider having a timeline of the age by which you want to achieve conception and the potential impact that your general health, as you age, can have on your chances for conception and your chances for a healthy pregnancy. Of course, modern technologies available at Dr. Duke’s Las Vegas based fertility clinic can aid couples in overcoming this factor.
Trace Your Family History
Problems with conceiving can also be the result of some inherited factors. As a start, you should ask any of your living close relatives about health conditions which may run in the family or if anyone in the family has had tissues related to the reproductive system, including loss of pregnancies or newborn children. Such information can help specialists understand the nature of your conception problem.
Having Problems? Just Remember B.A.B.Y.
Understanding fertilization and the various factors affecting it can help you make wiser decisions. Without insurance coverage, the prices for the various tests and treatment for infertility can overwhelm your expenses. If ever you are experiencing problems, here are simple tips that will help you achieve your dream goal of having a family:
Tip No. 1: Believe It Will Happen
Feeling frustrated that you did not conceive on your first or tenth try is natural and to be expected? However, the basis of the hope for success means that as a person who is trying, the human psyche leads you to believe that it must work. This belief can then lead to a serious emotional let down when the pregnancy test is negative and over time, it can result in a sense of apathy taking over as a coping mechanism. This is where it becomes really hard to maintain a positive outlook or persona. Therefore, I like to stress that while infertility is a disease, learning to manage stress, early on in the journey is a necessary and important step. While stress by itself is not believed to cause infertility, we know that stress can lead to changes in the hormone cortisol and that can in turn interfere with the hormones responsible for orchestrating the processes that can help make pregnancy happen. Finding ways to maintain inner peace like meditation, journaling, yoga, painting, dancing or playing music are highly recommended.
Tip No. 2: Ask for Professional Help
Having the mindset, as described tip no 1, is not enough; especially if you have underlying health conditions. Seeking out professional help, early on can spare you a lot of stress and anxiety. You should also consider choosing the best medical professional for your fertility problem. In Las Vegas, the Nevada Fertility Institute headed by Dr. Cindy Duke is one of the providers of world-class fertility care. With their latest technological developments and excellent care, you will feel like your goals of achieving pregnancy are as personal to them as those goals are to you.
Tip No. 3: Be Honest
Your medical professional might have difficulty diagnosing the best plan if you are not entirely honest with them about your health history. Also, following the medications and treatments that were recommended by your doctor also makes a positive difference for you as it allows them to assess if they’re truly working or not. Build up confidence with your fertility specialist because they only want the best for you.
Tip No. 4: Yes to Modern Technology
Modern fertility techniques are excellent options for persons who are experiencing difficulty while trying to conceive. Thanks to the many advances in modern techniques which are now available to us, medicine can respond to your modern healthcare needs with options which are as straightforward as ovulation induction to IUI, IVF or gestational carriers (surrogates). According to a 2018 analysis from the New York Times, married women in San Francisco have their first child at an average of 32.9 years old. Although the national average stands at 26.6, the figure was at a later age compared to the 1970 data where the average age at which a woman had her first child was 21.4 years old.
Using the mnemonics B.A.B.Y to help you remember these four simple tips, Dr. Cindy Duke reminds us that the idea of conception while challenging is not usually impossible. Alongside our unanswered questions, science continues its development to help understand our health conditions.
Authored by Cindy Duke, MD