What Everyone Should Know About Infertility

Fertility problems are shockingly common: For every seven couples trying to have a baby, one couple will not have conceived after a year. It’s a heart-wrenching issue, and there are still many things experts don’t know – for instance, when a woman is infertile, 30% of the time doctors can’t figure out why. Still, information is a couple’s best tool, followed closely by support. So, as National Infertility Awareness Month draws to a close, here are five steps that offer a little of both.

1. Learn What Can Cause Infertility: There’s a lot that has to happen for sperm and egg to meet and merge. Unfortunately, that means there are plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong. A woman’s fertility is particularly affected by the passage of time, says Evelyn Minaya, MD, because her eggs have existed – and have been aging – ever since her own birth. Men don’t have that issue, since they’re constantly creating new sperm, but there is a slew of potential obstacles that can get in the way of success for those swimmers. As a result, up to 30% of fertility problems originate with the couple’s male partner; read what our experts have to say about infertility in men here. To find out about seemingly harmless habits that can reduce fertility in men, women or both, and other pregnancy-friendly facts, take our fertility quiz.

2. Know How to Boost Fertility Naturally: If you and your partner are trying to get pregnant, give yourself a lifestyle checkup to make sure you’re not getting in your own way. For men, adding omega-3 fatty acids to the diet (in food or supplements) may help. Both of you might benefit from watching a funny movie – for men and women alike, laughter, meditation and other stress-busters can increase the likelihood of conception. And if it seems unfair that stress can make it harder to conceive – after all, few things are more fraught than infertility – our experts’ clear perspective on the connection may help.

3. Get a Sense of How Long Is Too Long: Your high school health teacher may have told you that it takes only once to get pregnant – but as Evelyn Minaya, MD, explains in this video, you shouldn’t panic if you don’t get pregnant right away. In fact, she says, most couples should try for at least a year to conceive naturally before calling a fertility specialist, though the timing varies with age.

4. Don’t Jump to Conclusions: If it is time for a specialist, says Margaret McKenzie, MD, the first step will be a thorough evaluation. As John Jain, MD, notes, there are many potential treatments for infertility, and it’s key to get the right one for your particular problem.

5.  You’re Not Alone: Infertility is a complex and emotional issue, and it helps to connect with people who understand what you’re going through. You can find our top 10 online influencers in the world of infertility here. You can get even more information by checking our infertility topic page. And if you need some help starting a sensitive conversation – or would like to gently educate a friend or loved one about what you’re going through – consider sharing this blog post. It’s a great icebreaker.