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Overcoming Infertility: When Should a Couple Seek Infertility Treatment?

Dr. Long

A couple should consider seeking help from a fertility specialist after attempting to conceive for three months, six months, a year—there really is no right answer. Infertility could be due to a single factor, or multiple factors, and fertility treatments vary in complexity. One factor in particular has become more prominent nowadays in couples who are trying to conceive: age, which effects both the husband and wife, has become a threat to fecundity as society pressures couples to start a family later in life.

 Females are born with a limited supply of eggs (oocytes), and after puberty begins, oocytes are depleted at a rate of thirty to forty per cycle, regardless if the female is taking oral contraceptives. This causes a gradual depletion of oocyte density within the ovaries beginning around the age twenty-seven, and there is a critical deficiency of oocyte supply starting around the age of thirty-five. Thus, a couple, where the wife is around age thirty-five or greater, should seek fertility help immediately. In couples age thirty to thirty-two who have never conceived, the duration for conception is approximately six months. The duration for conception for couples who were successful in their previous attempts decreases to about three to four months. Therefore, it is reasonable to use a four to six-month window of trying without conception as a guide to seek fertility help.

 In addition, the status of the reproductive tract is also considered as a possible cause of infertility in females. Also, an important concept to consider is that oocytes undergo changes in the female due to hormonal changes occur due to aging. After the age of thirty-five, there is an exponential increase in chromosomal abnormalities due to the age of the oocytes.

In most males, age does not tend to affect the viability of sperm cells until after the age of forty-five to fifty. However, both the husband and wife should undergo diagnostic evaluation. Hormonal imbalances, or genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, are some of causes of male infertility. Also, if a man possesses a genetic trait that causes inadequate sperm development and a higher percentage of abnormally shaped sperm (poor sperm morphology), the likelihood of contraception is drastically low, as the sperm cell cannot fertilize an egg. Also, if the sperm cells possess abnormal motility, they will have difficulty fertilizing the egg. Low sperm count, abnormal sperm morphology, and abnormal sperm motility are the main causes of male infertility.

Many couples are faced with the time constraints of fertility in both males and females. In summary, there is no absolute correct answer for when a couple should start to seek fertility help; logically, the earlier the couple seeks help, the more likely there will be success.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.