Deciding to get help for infertility can be a tough choice for couples to make. Infertility is a very private matter, and couples often feel shy or embarrassed about discussing it with anyone, even a doctor.
Age is the biggest factor in deciding when to seek treatment. Many people are surprised to learn that a woman’s fertility peaks around age 25. It starts to decline after that and drops sharply after age 35. A man’s fertility also starts to decline after age 35.
A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have. As she ages, her eggs decrease both in number and quality.This makes it harder to get pregnant and raises the risk of miscarriages and birth defects.
Of course, age is not the only issue. Many other factors can play a hand in infertility. They are divided about equally between those that affect women, such as menstrual problems, and those that affect men, such as low sperm count. In some cases, the cause of infertility is never found.
When to see a doctor about infertility?
Experts base their advice for when to seek treatment on the woman’s age and how long you’ve been having unprotected sex:
If you are 30 or younger, see your doctor if you haven’t conceived after 10 to 12 months. A year can seem like a long time, but most younger couples will conceive within a year of trying.
If you are 35 or older or have a history of fertility problems, experts suggest seeing your doctor after six months of trying. After 35, time is running out. You may still be able to get pregnant but it may take longer, so don’t delay getting help.
If you decide to seek treatment, both partners should have a physical exam. Your doctor will review your past and present health and may do tests to look for clues to what is affecting your fertility.
How to boost your odds of success
•If you don’t feel it’s time to get help, there are things you can try that may help improve your chance of getting pregnant. To maximize your fertility:
•Have sex every two days. This will help ensure that you are taking advantage of your most fertile days.
•If you smoke, quit. Smoking lowers fertility in women and it may affect men, too.
•Keep your weight in a healthy range. Being either overweight or underweight can affect ovulation. In men, it may affect sperm count.
•Avoid alcohol. It can cause menstrual and ovulation problems, and if you do get pregnant, it increases the risk of birth defects and miscarriage. In men, too much alcohol can lead to low sperm count.
•Limit caffeine to no more than two cups a day.