An OB/GYN can help navigate this often frustrating condition.
Infertility is more than just an inconvenience, it’s an actual condition of the reproductive system interfering with the body’s ability to conceive a child.
The Centers for Disease Control found good news in their last survey of family growth: While about 11 percent of the viable reproductive-age population is considered infertile, infertility rates have actually declined in the last three decades. The CDC and other medical experts speculate that much of this decline is due to cutting-edge fertility innovations.
Physicians diagnose infertility following 12 months of unprotected intercourse without conception. But many couples choose to seek out an obstetrician/gynecologist much sooner.
Touro Obstetrician/Gynecologist Quinn Peeper, M.D., says there are many factors that affect fertility and your OB/GYN can guide you through the conception process. In addition, he says your OB/GYN can help verify you are at your healthiest before you even attempt to conceive. “Your OB/GYN can take a thorough history and start the blood work needed,” he says. “He or she will follow a checklist for healthy conception such as verifying your vaccines are up to date to avoid conditions that can be life threatening to a fetus.”
For couples experiencing fertility frustrations, you might be able to jump-start your research with this checklist:
1. Are you overweight? Underweight? As many as 12 percent of infertility cases are the result of a woman weighing too much or too little.
2. Do you smoke? Smoking is a leading cause of fertility issues due to the number of chemicals in cigarettes. Men’s sperm count and mobility decrease from smoking.
3. Do you drink? Do drugs? Have poor nutrition? Drink too much caffeine? Skip exercise? Have a high stress lifestyle? The body is an amazing machine and reproduction can often overcome much, but poor health might just be a factor.
4. Do you know about other infertility factors? For example, hot tubs, laptops and tight undergarments can create high temperatures that effect sperm.
It’s Not Just Women
In 40 percent of infertile couples, the male partner is either the sole cause or a contributing factor to infertility. There may not be any obvious factors at play, but, in some cases, inherited disorders, hormone imbalances, dilated veins in the testicles and conditions blocking sperm make it more obvious that it’s time to see a physician. Possible signs and symptoms include:
Erectile dysfunction or low volume ejaculation
Pain, swelling or a lump in the testicle area
Abnormal breast growth and/or decreased body hair indicating hormone imbalance
An even more important factor in male infertility is drug use, says Dr. Peeper. Many people don’t realize the effects of drugs on the sperm count, he says. “Marijuana lowers the sperm count and new studies indicate that men who spoke marijuana just once per week lower their sperm count by one-third. If other drugs, like cocaine or ecstasy are used, the sperm count can drop to half the normal amount.”
The Emotional Side of Infertility
Infertility can be frustrating and difficult on a relationship. “Having sex on demand — like when a patient is ovulating — as opposed to spontaneous desire is certainly difficult,” Dr. Peeper says. He recommends his patients work hard to keep a positive outlook and follow a few guidelines for best mental and emotional health during attempted conception.
…see an obstetrician/gynecologist and use your resources.
…seek support groups or a counselor.
…eat well and get plenty of sleep.
…work together with your partner and try to keep it fun.
Innovation in Infertility
While vital for some patients, in vitro fertilization and similar treatments account for less than 3 percent of infertility services.
“In vitro fertilization shouldn’t even enter the discussion until less invasive and more affordable methods such as in utero insemination have been exhausted,” Dr. Peeper says. Sometimes the problem is even less complex, and medication to stimulate ovulation is all that’s needed. “I have many patients who have achieved pregnancy with Clomid that I prescribed who carried to term without complications and delivered healthy babies.”
One of the most gratifying parts of Dr. Peeper’s job is helping patients overcome their infertility. He is then able to enjoy caring for the patient on their path to parenthood. “Currently, I have a couple in their early 40s who underwent an evaluation for infertility; the problem was azoospermia (no sperm),” he says. “They found a sperm donor, and thru IVF the patient is now successfully pregnant. The couple recently showed me a video of their gender reveal party. Seeing the thrill and excitement of their family experience the surprise was magnificent!”
After graduating with a master’s degree in physiology from the University of Oxford, Dr. E. Quinn Peeper attended medical school at Columbia College and completed his OB/GYN residency at Cornell University and St. Paul Ramsey Medical Center.