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Are You Infertile?

woman with pregnancy test

Let's be honest, 'infertility' is a scary word - it's not a word that anyone wants to use to describe themselves.

Even when a woman becomes aware that the word may be an accurate description of her situation, her first instinct may be to resist it. The word itself seems to imply an absolute incapability to accomplish something, and a modern woman may not be quick to embrace the concept of not being able to instantly achieve something - even if it's in the reproductive arena.

It also doesn't help that the word, for most people, conjures up very specific images. Heartbreak. Dwindling bank accounts. Loneliness. Octomom.

When we're frightened of something, the best thing to do is arm ourselves with facts to take some power away from the monster. So what exactly is infertility?

Infertility is loosely defined as not having become pregnant after a year of frequent, unprotected sex, or if you're above the age of 35, after six months. It can also be used to describe someone who has been pregnant more than once, and has thus far been unable to carry a baby to term.

Whether or not you're aware of it, infertility is a term that describes a lot of people. Ten to fifteen percent of couples in the United States are infertile.

If you're just figuring out that this describes you, while it's not pleasant, it's not as scary a word or situation as you may be thinking.

Only a small percentage of couples who suffer from infertility end up graduating in treatment all the way to IVF. There are a whole range of possibilities for what could be delaying results in trying to conceive, and the reasons range from very simple to more complicated.

To get pregnant, a few things have to happen. The woman's body must release an egg from her ovaries (ovulation). The man's sperm must fertilize the egg. The fertilized egg must then travel through the fallopian tube towards the womb, and then implant itself inside the uterus. If there is a problem with one or more of these steps, it will prevent pregnancy.

If you're just figuring out that getting pregnant is not something that is happening for you naturally, facing down the word 'infertility' is not easy. Your instinct may be to bat that word to the back of your mind, and to hope that it resolves itself before it comes floating back to the forefront. Looking at that word and confronting that it may be something that describes you, however, does not necessarily mean that you are in for years and years of complicated and expensive treatment. Treatments vary greatly on based on what the diagnosis is, but it could be something as simple as being prescribed medication to help along ovulation.

The response to using a scary term like 'infertility' can be counter intuitive. A couple may delay facing that they are having issues, because the idea of seeking out a specialist can feel like they're signing on for a prolonged, complicated experience. The irony of course being that by not coming to terms with difficulties and finding help, they are more than likely delaying pregnancy even further. Not being able to get pregnant naturally can be scary - sitting in front of someone who knows what they're talking about and can help is empowering.

Whether or not your problem is simple or complex, a statistic that may help you in finding the motivation to find out. According to a GfK Roper survey released in 2011, among couples seeing a fertility specialist for treatment, 91% wish they had started doing so sooner. That's a very solid push in the direction of conquering fears and stigma about the word, and seeking help when it's evident that it is necessary.

The word 'infertility' isn't pretty, and accepting that it may be something that describes you isn't easy. If it does, you are not alone, infertility is a word that describes millions of Americans though it's perhaps not talked about as much as it should be. By no means does the term mean incapable or never, it just implies a need for assistance. Unfortunately, whatever issues there are in trying to conceive will exist whether or not you speak them out loud in front of a Doctor - but the absolute worst case scenario for seeking help? You'll find information, you'll find options, you'll find answers. Most of all, you'll be empowering yourself and getting that much closer to parenthood.

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