Infertility - Impact Overview

Infertility Defined

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive a pregnancy in spite of having frequent, unprotected sex for a period of at least a year. It is estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of couples in the US are infertile, so if you're having problems conceiving, you are not alone. If you have been trying for a year or more to conceive and still have not been successful, the infertility may be the result of a single issue with you or your partner. Or, it may be a combination of things occurring which are preventing a pregnancy.

The Complex Process of Reproduction

Human reproduction is a complex process requiring that specific functions within both the man and the woman are operating well. The woman's body must be producing certain hormones which signal the release of the egg - called ovulation - which will be fertilized by sperm in the fallopian tube. The man must be able to ejaculate enough semen to deliver sperm into the vagina. There must be adequate sperm of the correct shape and motility to be able to make it through the vagina and uterus into the fallopian tubes. If the egg is fertilized, it will travel into the uterus to become embedded in the lining and then begin the nine-month process of growing into a baby.

There Are Times When It Just Doesn't Work

For some couples, something goes awry in this process and they find themselves infertile. For many years, infertility was generally relegated to be the responsibility of the woman. Somehow, if a couple was unable to conceive, it was the woman who was automatically held responsible. Things are no longer that way in most Western countries as the reality that it does, indeed, take two people to create a baby has finally caught on. The cause or causes of infertility may involve one or both members of the couple.

The problem of infertility seems to be increasing every year as more and more couples find themselves unable to conceive. There have been some studies that blame the changing societal norms for the problem stating that people are waiting longer to get married and, since women's fertility lowers with age, it is problematic for procreation to marry later in life.

The Impact of Infertility on Marriage and Relationships

Infertility can have a powerful impact on marriage and has the potential to either ravage a marriage or enable the participants to grow stronger. Both partners in the relationship suffer as a result of infertility - each in their own way. It can be one of the greatest challenges to a marriage and should be treated that way. For a couple to realize that the infertility experience is truly as traumatic as it feels is a good starting place in terms of getting a glimpse of the impact it has. People going through infertility have, according to research, the same stress levels as people experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.

Don't Close the Door

The greatest and most effective tool any couple will have when dealing with infertility is open communication. While it is not always easy, keeping the door open to talk - not only to one another but to other couples, counselors, clergy, friends and family - will go a long way to helping you both grapple with the myriad emotions you will experience.

It is most important to know there is help available and many different ways exist to address the situation. It isn't always easy, but it is worth the effort.


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