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National Infertility Awareness Week in 2014

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Infertility is a medical condition that many couples experience. Men and women who participated the week of April 20 – 26, 2014 for National Infertility Awareness Week were educated about fertility and options for couples trying to conceive.

Resolve, the National Infertility Association’s community and Merck are educating individuals through a new study about infertility. 649 participants helped to shed light about the feelings and thoughts that women and partners experience.

In the United States, 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility or approximately 7 million Americans. Many experience anxiety prior to seeing a fertility specialist; however, a specialist can address concerns and offer options. Most women who have infertility problems do end up having babies, and shouldn’t feel ashamed of fertility issues.

Through a 2014 survey of Resolve, it was reported that 92 percent of those who saw a specialist for the first time decided to continue seeing a fertility specialist for treatment. Whereas, six out of 10 participants wish they had seen a fertility specialist sooner.

Dr. Alice Domar, Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health and the Director of Mind/Body Services at Boston IVF specializes in the emotional stress surrounding infertility.

According to Dr. Domar, the survey conducted also suggests that, nearly 74 percent think there should be more information about infertility on the internet, and 73 percent think there should be more information about infertility on social media sites.

Oftentimes, the lack of understanding about fertility and embarrassment can delay couples seeking fertility information or medical advice. It’s important for couples to understand that there are options and infertility is a common medical condition.

Through a follow-up interview, Dr. Domar further educates couples facing infertility.

What are misconceptions about reproductive health?

The biggest misconception is that women don’t understand the impact of age on fertility, and it’s for both women and men. I think a lot of women perceive that if they’re healthy and take good care of themselves, they’ll be fertile. I’ve had patients in their early fifties who look fabulous. They have gorgeous skin, they’re slender, and they eat well, and work out. They don’t understand [why] they’re having trouble getting pregnant because they look a lot younger than they are, but the ovaries don’t tend to know that. I think the biggest misconception is lack of recognition of the impact on age. Other lifestyle behaviors can impact fertility, and I don’t think women think about that. Cigarette smoking has the greatest [risk], caffeine, alcohol, very vigorous exercise, and either being obese or underweight can impact fertility.

What can couples do to improve chances of fertility, and what shouldn’t they do?

One of the things that people don’t understand is the process of ovulation. I think that women assume they ovulate on day 14; [however], women ovulate 14 days before their period. If your menstrual cycle is 28 days, you should ovulate around day 14, but if [the] menstrual cycle is 30 days, then you probably ovulate closer [toward] day 16. A lot of women don’t know when they ovulate. The time you’re most likely to get pregnant is right before ovulation because the egg, once it’s released from the follicle only survives about 24 hours, while the sperm can live in the female reproductive tract for days and days and days. So if you ovulate on day 14, by day 15 the egg is no longer viable.

Can early trauma have an impact on fertility?

There’s never been a study that [indicates] trauma to cause infertility. There has been some research to show that women who have a history of depression are more likely to experience infertility than women who have not had a history of depression. My guess is if and when they do a study, it will most likely show that women who have been a victim of sexual abuse are more likely to have infertility. It’s not a guarantee, and it’s a guess on my part.

Does genetics impact fertility?

By definition, fertility cannot be genetic. I suspect some fertility can be genetic [such as] endometriosis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. There are conditions that render you sub fertile that can be genetic.

What are options for women who are unable to conceive naturally due to polycystic ovarian syndrome?

Not menstruating has nothing to do with the ability to carry a pregnancy. When we talk about those guidelines of if a woman is under 35, she should wait a year before seeing a fertility doctor, and if she’s over 35 she should wait about six months. Those guidelines don’t apply in certain circumstances. If a woman doesn’t menstruate, it suggests that something is going on with her reproductive functioning, and she should see an infertility specialist right away.

Ironically, if a woman doesn’t menstruate on her own it’s one of the easiest conditions to treat and it has one of the highest pregnancy rates. In most circumstances, she wouldn’t need to do surrogacy. Surrogacy is for women who have a systemic disease like multiple sclerosis, which may be made worse by pregnancy or lack a normal uterus. If someone simply doesn’t ovulate or menstruate, most of the time they can give her medication that will induce ovulation, and most of the time she will get pregnant and have a healthy baby.

You can also read Dr. Domar’s interview with Examiner from last year regarding infertility.

If couples need additional support and resources, Resolve, the national infertility organization has helpful information.

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