Women’s Health: National Infertility Awareness Week

Women's Health

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — April 18-24 marks National Infertility Awareness Week, uniting all those struggling to build a family.

The CDC reports that 1 in 8 couples have trouble getting or staying pregnant. This movement urges them to speak up, take action, and seek help.

 “Getting a conversation started with your doctor really tends to be the best thing you can possible do,” said Dr. Katherine Cartwright, of Albany Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Trying to start a family can be frustrating and overwhelming. Not conceiving a baby after a year of trying is the official definition of infertility, but Dr. Cartwright says if women have warning signs, that discussion should begin sooner.

“Things like a history of really irregular cycles is something that should be worked out by a doctor and looked at without waiting a really long time. Stage 3 and stage 4 endometriosis is something that you should be worked up for earlier than waiting the full 12 months,” she said.

Up to 90% of infertility cases are treated with drug therapy or surgical procedures, with very few needing advanced reproductive technologies like IVF

“Only about 5% or so of people end up needing invasive procedures, which is the first thing people think of with infertility is really expensive invasive procedures, and for a large number of people just going over their history, their health and doing some really basic testing sometimes is all they need,” said Dr. Cartwright.

There may be many reasons why a woman cannot be able to get pregnant. One-third of infertility cases are tied directly to a women’s health problem, and another one-third of the time it’s a health issue related to the man. The other third of infertility cases are generally related to a health issue with both partners, sometimes with no explanation, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Causes of infertility

  • Ovulation disorders like polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Uterine or cervical abnormalities
  • Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes
  • Endometriosis
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency (early menopause)
  • Pelvic adhesions
  • Cancer and/or cancer treatments

Other risk factors

  • Age
  • Tobacco or marijuana use
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Being under- or over-weight
  • Too little or too much exercise

*Source: Mayo Clinic

No matter the cause of infertility, it can create a lot of stress for women and/or couples trying to start or grow their families. That’s where support groups become instrumental in helping women or couples cope with the mental challenges of infertility, Dr. Cartwright said.

“For some people, they walk in the door and there’s a simple solution. We look at lab work, we look at something and say okay, this is something we can fix. Here’s a plan, let’s move forward and they don’t get to that point. For other people, they’re walking in the door, and it’s been five years of trying. And it’s the first time they’re seeing someone or the tenth time they’re seeing someone,” she said.

“I think it really depends on the toll it’s taken on people but there are tons of emotional support groups. There are people who have been through this, which I think many patients find to be the community that they get the most support from, is people who really know what they’re going through.”

Some other causes of infertility can include stress, diabetes, hormonal issues, certain medications, and nutrient deficiency, according to the Albany Obstetrics and Gynecology website.

A woman or couple’s infertility journey may not always end in pregnancy or birth of a child but seeing patients through their struggles with infertility resulting in a pregnancy and birth of a healthy baby is rewarding, Dr. Cartwright said.

“I think happy stories from patients who get pregnant and have a happy healthy baby is the best thing we can ask for. It’s unfortunately not always the case for everyone.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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