Infertility Is Not Rare Part 1

4 September 2013

Anyone with a sex life knows fertility control is an issue for every relationship. Most couples want to plan when they have children and, most of the time, fertility control is about preventing pregnancy. But what if you want a child, and conception doesn't happen?

Most people think they will conceive almost immediately they cease contraception. In reality, 10-15 per cent of couples experience infertility. (Infertility is defined as a failure to conceive after 12 months of regular unprotected intercourse). Few couples are prepared when the problem happens to them.

In a couple with normal fertility, there's a 20 per cent chance of falling pregnant each month. After 2 years, 94 per cent will be pregnant and the average time to pregnancy is 4 months.

People say you can't be a "little-bit" pregnant, but you can be a "little-bit" infertile. Conception is a very complicated process and many things can make it difficult without it being impossible.

  • If a mild factor is present that decreases the chance of conception by only one fifth, 60 per cent will be pregnant in one year with a mean time to pregnancy of 2 years.
  • Should there be two mild factors, the pregnancy rate falls to 1 per cent per month, 17 per cent will be pregnant in 2 years and the mean time to pregnancy is 7 years.
  • If we take three mild factors, not an uncommon situation for a woman in her mid-30's, then there is a pregnancy rate of 0.15 per cent per month with 3.7 per cent being pregnant in 2 years and a mean time to pregnancy of 40 years!
  • Another crucial factor is the duration of the infertility. If a couple have not conceived in 3 years, then their chance of conceiving falls from the original rate of 20 per cent per month to only 4.6 per cent per month.

If you suspect you may have an infertility problem, it is much better to seek advice sooner rather than later. Find a doctor willing to listen to your concerns. It may simply be that you are overly anxious and it is a case of simple reassurance, or perhaps it is something very simple. Is intercourse being appropriately timed? Do work commitments mean your partner is away during the fertile time? (I have had couples who were actually timing intercourse at infertile times of the month - the egg actually only lives 24 to 48 hours - and others where their work roster of two weeks away then two weeks at home was in effect a very efficient contraceptive roster. If separation is unavoidable sperm may be frozen and insemination can take place at the fertile times.

Another trap is timing intercourse to the rise in temperature that occurs in basal body temperature (BBT) charts. BBT charts tell you what has happened not what is going to, so the changes related to ovulation tell you that an egg was probably released that month, but intercourse after the temperature rise is unlikely to result in pregnancy.

If all good advice has been followed with no result in 6 to 12 months depending on the woman's age then seek help at an infertility clinic such as Coastal IVF.

Next week - we continue Infertility is Not Rare - Part 2.