9 Realities of Infertility

Let’s be honest, infertility is a touchy subject. Many people have questions but are too afraid to ask: does infertility mean that you can never have children? Does it affect men and women? How often do the treatments work?

Q & A:

All the questions you are too afraid to ask, answered now!

1. What is infertility?

According to the World Health Organization, the clinical definition for infertility is “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.” After only as short as a year of trying, a couple can be deemed “infertile.” This may not mean that having kids is impossible–depending on each situation, there are many treatments available that can help. It is also not unheard of for a labelled “infertile” couple to get pregnant once they’ve stopped trying.

  • 2. How many people are affected by infertility?

  • Infertility, it seems, is notoriously unrecognized for being as prevalent as it really is. Infertility affects 1 in 8 couples or about 7 million people worldwide. Just because so few people talk about it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen often. Recently, there have been more and more celebrities opening up about their experiences with infertility. 

  • 3. Does infertility affect both men and women?

  • YES. This is one of the most common misconceptions about infertility–that it’s just a woman’s problem. In fact, the American Society for Reproductive Health said that about one-third of infertility cases are attributed to male factors and one-third are attributed to female factors.The remaining one-third is attributed to a combination of problems, or, about 20% of the time, is left “unexplained.” This is like saying that men are responsible about half the time (or just as responsible as women). 

  • 4. How often do fertility treatments work?

  • IVF, surgery, medication, surrogacy, donor eggs/sperm, and more fertility treatments are out there today. Everyone has a different body and will react differently to these treatments.

    • IVF: the average success rates for IVF are in the 30% range, 39% being the highest for couples under 35.
    • Medication: Medication is available for both men and women to help control hormone levels in the body. Unfortunately some come with some serious side effects and increase the likelihood of dangerous multiple births. Success rates range from 30-50%.
    • Surrogacy: Gestational surrogacy is when a woman is infertile because of a problem with her uterus, not her eggs. In this case, an infertile woman can remove her eggs to have a surrogate mother carry the embryo after it is fertilized. Mostly these success rates have to do with the egg quality and vary considerably.
    • Donor Eggs/Sperm: You have to be careful with this type of fertility treatment, since it is assisted by “third party reproduction” and you may run into legal issues. Success rates for egg donation are around 30%-40%, while sperm donation is more difficult to measure.

    5. How much do fertility treatments cost?

    It is difficult to think that people would spend very much for an average of a 30% chance of starting a family, but you would be surprised:

    The average IVF procedure can take 2-3 weeks and cost at the lowest $10,000 or in the upper range $15,000 in the US and about £3800-£4800 in the UK.

    The two most common fertility medications only cost about $5-20 a month, however, injectable medications can range from $2,500-$3,500. The UK experiences similar costs ranging from £5 to £1,000.

    A donor egg can cost upwards of $30,000 in the US or more than £7,700 in the UK after all the costs of finding the right match add up. Even after that, some people experience legal issues that can also contribute to the already large expense. Donor sperm are more afforadable at around $500.

    Surrogacy is the most expensive route to take. In the end, estimated costs for gestational surrogacy are anywhere from $100,000-$150,000 in the US. In the UK, it is illegal to pay a surrogate mother for the act of carrying a child, however, you can pay for the surrogate’s expenses and loss of earnings which can be several thousand pounds.  

  • 6. How often do miscarriages happen?

  • Miscarriages affect as many as 10%-25% of all pregnancies and usually occur within the first 13 weeks. Though there are many different causes, one of the most common is chromosomal abnormality which is affected by egg and sperm health. The best way to promote egg and sperm health for both sexes is to lead a healthy lifestyle–exercising, eating a balanced diet, cutting smoking, and limiting drinking habits.

  • 7. How does infertility affect a relationship?

  • Infertile couples are three times more likely to get divorced than fertile couples. Going through fertility treatments that fail in the end can leave couples physically, emotionally, and financially depleted. Some studies even show that infertile women experience depression and anxiety the same way cancer patients or people with other serious illnesses do.

  • 8. Is “unexplained” infertility treatable?

  • Each case of infertility is different. There are many stories of infertile couples having a hard time conceiving for years at a time that suddenly get pregnant after they “stop trying.” There are some explanations that could be behind this–one in particular was a recent study in India that discovered that stress can be detrimental to fertility. So, is it treatable? Maybe. 

  • 9. What causes infertility?

  • As mentioned before, both men and women can contribute to infertility. There are many lifestyle causes of infertility having to do with diet and exercise, but also some more interesting theories today including mobile radiation. Studies on mobile radiation show that electromagnetic radiation emitted from cell phones reduce sperm count, sperm motility, sperm viability, and testosterone levels, which are huge contributors to male infertility. Studies have also shown cases of hormonal imbalance from cell phone radiation, which may also affect female infertility, as hormones must be in balance to promote ovulation.

    Though much of this post reveals the cold, hard truth behind infertility, many people go through this journey together and are successful–maybe not right away, but they don’t call pregnancy a miracle for nothing.


    Do have any other questions about infertility?

    Share your thoughts in the comment section below!


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