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Infertility: Basic Overview

Many couples find it tough to get a pregnancy underway and become distressed. Much of the cause of distress is some myths and misinformation. Incorrect facts lead to fear and anxiety and can further disrupt the possibility of getting pregnant. This small blog is an attempt to share the scientific facts and the basis behind the conception.

"Infertility" - What is it?

Infertility is defined as a couple's inability to become pregnant after one year of unprotected intercourse if the female partner is less than 35 years of age, or six months if the female partner is 35 or older.

Is infertility rare or common?

Infertility is a common condition: in any given year, approximately 15 to 20 percent of couples in India who are trying to conceive are not able to do so.

What is the cause of infertility?

When a couple experiences infertility, it can be due to medical problems with one or both partners. In some cases, a specific cause cannot be identified.

What does the health care provider do when a couple with infertility seeks advice?

When a couple is having difficulty getting pregnant, health care providers routinely involve both partners in the evaluation in order to try to diagnose and treat the cause(s).

Are there any ways in which the couple can increase the possibility of getting pregnant?

In some cases, there are things a couple can do to increase their chances of getting pregnant. These include keeping track of the female partner's menstrual cycle and ensuring intimacy for when ovulation is most likely. It may also help to make lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol, caffeine, and other drugs.

A health care provider can advise on when a formal evaluation is indicated and what tests are most appropriate. The following is descriptive information about how pregnancy happens.

When pregnancy happens through sex, the following steps must happen:

  • An egg is released from the ovary. This is called "ovulation."

  • The partner's sperm swims up the vagina, into the uterus, and up the fallopian tubes. (These are the tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus.)

  • When the sperm reaches the egg, at least one sperm must get through the outer casing of the egg and make it inside. This is called "fertilization."

  • The newly fertilized egg travels down to the uterus.

  • The egg secures itself to the wall of the uterus. This is called "implantation."

Next time we will see some more details on infertility.

Dr. Girija Wagh


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