What is Infertility?

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive within 12 months of unprotected intercourse.

An estimated 15-20% of couples experience infertility. Because there is still a stigma associated with infertility, many couples will not openly speak about it. Consequently, many couples don’t seek any form of treatment for their problem. Furthermore, there is the misconception that stress causes infertility.

Often, a couple will be told to relax so that conception can occur. Or they will be told that they are too young to worry about it. By following these erroneous beliefs, couples delay consultation and treatment for their infertility problem. Which for older patients, could have serious consequences and lower their chance of conceiving.

It can be argued that younger women should seek treatment sooner than later. As their age does not play any role in their inability to achieve a pregnancy.

Who is to blame?

It was always assumed that the problem was with the woman. However, we now know that both men and women suffer infertility problems and they are no more common in one sex than the other. Sometimes multiple factors are involved in one or both partners.

In about 40 per cent of cases the problem is exclusively due to female infertility. While 40 per cent is exclusively due to male infertility. 10 per cent of the cases involve problems in both partners. In the remaining 10 per cent, the cause is unknown.

If you are unable to conceive after 12 months, you should consult your GP or gynaecologist for a referral to a fertility specialist. Specific tests will be conducted on both partners. These tests will give clues to what the cause of infertility could be. At this stage a treatment plan can be discussed.

At LifeArt Fertility Clinic we take both your medical histories into consideration.

For the woman, this includes any previous pregnancies, regularity of periods, painful periods, pelvic pain, infections, or surgery.

For the man this could be whether he has fathered children previously. Also testicular injury, developmental problems, infections, surgery and exposure to certain environmental factors.

A physical examination will also be performed which may include:
  • Blood tests. A series of tests will be performed to establish if there is a hormonal basis for your infertility, that may be corrected by hormonal supplements. You may also be tested for rubella, blood group, sperm antibodies and sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.
  • Ultrasound examination. This examination will give information on what the ovaries and uterus look like. Your doctor will look at the growth of eggs, and the thickness of the lining of the uterus (if thin, it can indicate hormonal problems). Your doctor will also check for the presence of fibroids or polyps on the uterus, as well as signs of endometriosis or ovarian cysts. Surgical laparoscopy may also be used to identify endometriosis or blocked fallopian tubes.
  • Semen analysis. A semen sample from the man is required to assess the number of sperm, how well they swim (known as ‘motility’) and the presence of sperm antibodies.