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Is infertility a serious problem?

Infertility is a fairly common problem. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) approximately 10 percent of couples have problems getting or staying pregnant. Infertility can be a serious medical condition based on its impacts on individuals and couples, for example causing high levels of stress and emotional disruption. Fortunately, however, there are many treatments and options available for those invested in having a baby, depending on the reason for infertility. Some of the available options may include medicines, surgical procedures, egg or sperm donors, or even adoption.

Unfortunately many of these routes can be expensive and/or quite invasive. The consequences of infertility are often closely tied to an individual’s access to treatment and the ultimate outcome of obtaining a successful pregnancy. As you can imagine, that can cause quite a serious impact on someone’s life. It is recommended that anyone interested in becoming pregnant should seek medical attention first (pre-conception counseling) to discuss some of these issues, become educated on the process and gain a good support system to give yourself the best resources possible.

Erika Tabke, MSN
Nursing Specialist

Infertility takes an exorbitant toll from the 14 percent of men and women (one in seven couples) who have problems with fertility. Couples diagnosed with infertility often struggle with multiple layers of fallout, including invasive medical interventions, emotional and psychological issues and financial hardships.

Our bodies and brains are wired to procreate: we need children in order to perpetuate our families and our species. And a large majority of Americans do have children. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, by age of 45, approximately 84 percent of men and 86 percent of women have had at least one biological child. Having children is an expected and accepted stage of the life journey, and when it doesn't happen as anticipated, the stress of this dissonance becomes part of an infertile couple's daily life.

The psychological and emotional consequences of infertility can show up in various forms including: anxiety, depression, blame, sadness, disappointment and shame. In confronting infertility, couples seeking treatment often end up feeling medicalized and depersonalized as they march through carefully monitored medical procedures driven by teams of doctors and staff. And couples who seek treatment sometimes get flack about their family-building choice, being told to "just adopt" or "just relax and you'll get pregnant."

Infertility can deliver a financial blow to couples who seek treatment. While many infertility-related problems can be fixed with relatively minor treatments, when couples turn to IVF (in vitro fertilization) for help, they usually pay for it themselves. And because of its expense (the average U.S. IVF cycle costs about $15K), couples face complicated medical decisions. While the goal of an IVF cycle is to produce one healthy baby, many couples take the risk of transferring more than one embryo to increase the chance of getting pregnant. Multiples, (twins, triplets and higher) are often the result of such financial constraints on infertility treatment. Ironically, in a quest to save money on treatment, a family pregnant with multiples will then end up with much higher costs of prenatal and postnatal care. Multiple pregnancies are considered high risk, and have higher likelihoods of obstetrical complications.

Is infertility serious? Absolutely. While it isn't usually life-threatening, its consequences are far-reaching and can cause a great deal of collateral damage in couples' lives.

Infertility isn't a life-threatening problem, but it can have a serious impact on your life. Depending on the cause, infertility may or may not be painful. Some underlying conditions, such as endometriosis, may be very painful, but others may not be noticeable at all. However, all cases of infertility can cause great emotional pain.

In some cases, infertility may be temporary—in fact, 60 percent of couples who experience infertility end up getting pregnant at some point either with or without treatment. Couples having fertility problems have a variety of treatment options that they can try. However, treatment isn't always effective, and it can get quite expensive. Unsuccessful treatment and continued infertility can cause severe emotional problems, including anger, frustration, sadness and resentment, which can all lead to marital problems and depression. To help cope with these serious issues, people affected by infertility should take advantage of counseling and support groups.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.