Understanding Infertility Symptoms

Infertility is a condition of the reproductive system that prevents the conception of children. It affects approximately 10-15% of couples throughout the United States. The diagnosis of infertility is usually given to couples who have been attempting to conceive for at least 1 year without success.

Infertility Symptoms in Women

In women, changes in the menstrual cycle and ovulation may be a symptom of a disease related to infertility. Symptoms include:

  • Abnormal periods. Bleeding is heavier or lighter than usual.
  • Irregular periods. The number of days in between each period varies each month.
  • No periods. You have never had a period, or periods suddenly stop.
  • Painful periods. Back pain, and cramping may happen.

Sometimes, female infertility is related to a hormone problem. In this case, symptoms can also include:

  • Skin changes, including more acne
  • Changes in sex drive and desire
  • Dark hair growth on the lips, chest, and chin
  • Loss of hair or thinning hair
  • Weight gain

Infertility Symptoms in Men

A young man sitting in thought at the end of the bed with his girlfriend on the background

Infertility symptoms in men can be vague. They may go unnoticed until a man tries to have a baby.

Symptoms depend on what is causing the infertility. They can include:

  • Changes in hair growth
  • Changes in sexual desire
  • Pain, lump, or swelling in the testicles
  • Problems with erections and ejaculation
  • Small, firm testicles

How Early Can You Get Tested?

Couples may request that their health care provider conduct an exam to determine if everything is healthy and working correctly. It is also possible to use over-the-counter screening tests using testing kits to evaluate key aspects of fertility for both men and women.

How Is Infertility Diagnosed?

As already noted, couples are generally advised to seek medical help if they are unable to achieve pregnancy after a year of unprotected intercourse.  The doctor will conduct a physical examination of both partners to determine their general state of health and to search for physical disorders that may be contributing to infertility. The doctor will usually interview both partners about their sexual habits in order to determine whether intercourse is taking place properly for conception.

If no cause can be determined at this point, more specific tests may be recommended. For women, these include an analysis of body temperature and ovulation, x-ray of the fallopian tubes and uterus, and laparoscopy. For men, initial tests focus on semen analysis.

Cause of polycystic ovary syndrome discovered at last

The most common cause of female infertility – polycystic ovary syndrome – may be caused by a hormonal imbalance before birth. The finding has led to a cure in mice, and a drug trial is set to begin in women later this year.

Polycystic ovary syndrome affects up to one in five women worldwide,  of whom struggle to fall pregnant. The condition is typically characterised by high levels of testosterone, ovarian cysts, irregular menstrual cycles, and problems regulating sugar, but the causes have long been a mystery. “It’s by far the most common hormonal condition affecting women of reproductive age but it hasn’t received a lot of attention,” says Robert Norman at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

Signs and Symptoms of Infertility

Signs and symptoms of infertility are often related to other underlying conditions. For example, 10 to 15 percent of untreated chlamydia cases will lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID leads to a blockage of the fallopian tubes, which prevents fertilization.

There are numerous conditions that can contribute to infertility in men and women. The signs and symptoms of each can vary greatly. If you’re concerned, it’s important to consult with your doctor.

Common symptoms of infertility include the following.

Your Best Chances for Success With IVF

When it comes to treating unexplained infertility,  for pregnancy success.

The pregnancy rates for IVF treatment are three times what they are for IUI with Clomid. (This will vary with age, however.)

As mentioned above, the pregnancy rate for Clomid with IUI is 7.6 percent. The pregnancy rate per cycle for IVF is 30.7 percent.

Not only are the success rates higher for IVF, the cause of the “unexplained” infertility is sometimes discovered during treatment.

Only during IVF can egg quality, the fertilization process, and embryo development be observed closely.

All that said, IVF is invasive and expensive.

You might think going straight to IVF is the best choice (given it’s superior success rates). It is actually better for the vast majority of couples to give IUI with Clomid a try first.

Most insurance companies (that offer any sort of IVF coverage) require less expensive treatments to be attempted first.

However, proceeding straight to IVF and skipping IUI may be the best choice if you’re age 38 or older.

This is something to discuss with your doctor.

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