It’s National Infertility Awareness Week (running April 18-24), which makes it a great time to explore the challenges that millions face when starting or growing a family—and the proactive steps people can take to understand their fertility.
Here are some key facts on infertility and how to test for it:
How prevalent is infertility?
It’s on our minds: infertility weighs heavily on millions of people. Sixty-one percent of respondents in a recent survey reported being more worried and anxious about their ability to have kids and family planning in general right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s incredibly common: About 12% of women of child-bearing age in the US have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, according to the CDC.
It’s not just a female issue: Both men and women can have issues that cause infertility. About a third of infertility cases are attributed to the female partner, while another third are attributed to males. The remaining third are caused by a combination of male and female issues or have an unknown cause.
What testing options are available?
Here are three easy options from Pixel by Labcorp that may be relevant depending on the phase of family planning you’re in:
- Ovarian Reserve: By age 30, only 10% of a woman’s eggs remain, and only 3% typically remain by age 40. This package provides an assessment of a woman's ability to conceive by measuring the hormones that play a vital role in the production of eggs. While no laboratory test can predict the likelihood of pregnancy, this fertility blood test can assess egg quantity to help predict ovarian response to stimulation (if, for example, you decide egg freezing or in vitro fertilization are right for you). It can also indicate conditions like PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) that may affect your ability to conceive.
- Thyroid Health Blood Test: Your thyroid is essential to your health and well-being, and women are 5-8x times more likely than men to have thyroid problems. Hypothyroidism (or an underactive thyroid) is a leading cause of difficulty in becoming pregnant and carrying a pregnancy to term.
- Pregnancy Test: By measuring the exact amount of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) present in the blood, this test can confirm a pregnancy with greater accuracy and earlier in gestation than many urine-based home pregnancy tests—or about 6-8 days after conception.
How long is it recommended for couples to try getting pregnant before seeing a doctor?
Most experts recommend that women under 35 try for at least a year, according to the CDC, but suggest women 35 and older seek medical help after six months of trying. Since certain conditions increase the risk of infertility, it’s recommended that women with the following symptoms or conditions see a doctor right away if they’re trying to conceive:
- Irregular periods or no period
- Very painful periods
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- More than one miscarriage
- A male partner with suspected issues, such as a history of testicular trauma, hernia surgery, chemotherapy or infertility with a previous partner
How is infertility diagnosed for men and women?
Doctors typically do an intake of each partner’s medical and sexual history, according to the CDC. From there, they do a semen analysis, a tubal evaluation and ovarian reserve testing (which can also be done without a doctor through Pixel by Labcorp).
What are the most common causes of infertility in men and women?
In men, disruption of testicular or ejaculatory function is often the cause. Any number of factors can be responsible, including trauma to the testes, unhealthy habits like heavy alcohol use and smoking, use of certain medications and supplements and medical conditions like diabetes and cystic fibrosis. Various hormonal and genetic disorders can also be responsible.
In women, disruption of ovarian function and effects of ovarian “age” are a primary cause, in addition to fallopian tube obstructions and uterine abnormalities.
The prospect of infertility can be frightening, and too many people carry this burden alone. We wanted to take the opportunity granted by National Fertility Awareness Week to remind you that you’re not alone. Pregnancy after infertility is far from hopeless, and there are proactive steps you can take to understand your fertility and plan for starting a family.