By Alexa Santory
Being a parent is a dream for many women and men alike, but an unfortunate truth for about 12% of women is that getting pregnant is extremely difficult and sometimes even impossible. Infertility is a reality for so many people of childbearing age, and it can be pretty devastating. Treatment options are wildly expensive, and insurance companies won’t cover it, leaving young couples with few options for how to fix it. Hopefully we’ll see this change sooner rather than later, but until then, there are ways to help and even fix the problem!
Infertility Myths and Facts
When someone experiences infertility, it means that they have tried to get pregnant for at least a year with no success. Infertility also implies not being able to carry a baby to term, which is equally as devastating to millions of couples. There are a number of causes for infertility in women, ranging from ovulation issues to hormone imbalance, to your sexual history. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about infertility, so let’s set the record straight!
Myth: Infertility is a women only problem.
Fact: Infertility is a thing for guys too! In order for someone to become pregnant, the sperm has to be healthy and able to move properly to the woman’s egg. Around 35% of infertility cases are caused by factors in the male reproductive system.
Myth: What you eat and how much you weight has no effect on your fertility.
Fact: In reality, your diet and your weight have a huge impact on your reproductive organs and can affect how fertile you are. People who are very overweight or underweight can experience issues with ovulation. Getting your weight and diet to a healthy level can increase ovulation, which increases your chance of being able to conceive!
Myth: You’re too young to be experiencing infertility.
Fact: It’s possible, but age plays a huge role in a woman’s ability to conceive because ovulation and good, viable eggs decrease over time. There’s also the possibility of some other condition that’s affecting your fertility, like an ovarian disorder or endometriosis. These conditions don’t discriminate based on age, so it’s important to be transparent with your doctor about how you’re feeling.
Myth: If you’re infertile, you can never have a child.
Fact: This is probably the biggest misconception. Infertility just implies that you haven’t been able to conceive with frequent intercourse after a year of trying. It could be caused by something much bigger, which is why talking to your doctor about it will open the door to treatment options. With proper treatment, the possibility of having a child becomes much higher!
What are some things that cause infertility?
Infertility in women can be the result of a number of conditions and factors, all of which are almost completely out of our control. Endometriosis, for example, is a condition that affects the female reproductive system by growing the endometrial lining (which sheds on our periods) outside of the uterus, constricting it and disrupting implantation of an egg.
Damage to the Fallopian tubes is a big factor too, which can be the result of conditions like pelvic inflammatory disease. Damaged Fallopian tubes decrease the sperm’s ability to reach the egg.
Ovulation disorders like PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) cause hormone imbalances which can affect the frequency of ovulation. PCOS causes multiple cysts to pop up on the ovaries, which can lead to menstrual problems, acne, excessive hair growth, and obesity.
There are also cervical issues than can lead to infertility, like fibroids and cervical stenosis. Fibroids can block the egg from being fertilized, but many people with fibroids are still able to get pregnant. Cervical stenosis is when the cervix is too narrow, which is sometimes genetic and other times caused by damage to the cervix. Smoking, poor diet, being over or underweight, sexual history such as untreated STI’s, and age all play a role in infertility and are all risk factors that can lead to it (Source).
What are some of my treatment options?
Fertility treatment options come in many forms. Oftentimes, infertility is a result of a hormonal imbalance. Doctors will usually put an infertility patient on hormone medication to regulate reproductive hormones and jumpstart conception. Clomiphene citrate, aka clomid, is one of the more common fertility drugs and has been used by doctors for over 40 years, so it’s a trusted option. It works to trigger the release of the hormones that cause an egg to be released. Doctors will sometimes pair clomid with other, injected hormones to jumpstart the process. Aside from hormone therapy, IUI and IVF are two of the most popular and effective fertility treatments available. These are forms of Assisted Reproductive Technology, or ART, which are procedures that can help make the sperm fertilize the egg or help the egg get implanted in the uterus.
What is IUI?
IUI stands for intrauterine insemination. It’s most commonly known as artificial insemination, and it’s the process where sperm cells are collected and put directly into the uterus when the person is ovulating. It helps cut the time and distance which the sperm has to travel to get to the egg and fertilize it. It’s a rather simple procedure that’s also less expensive than other fertility treatments, ranging from $300 to $1,000 without insurance. With one IUI treatment, a woman’s chance of getting pregnant increases 10 to 20%, and with consistent treatment those chances shoot up tp 80%! Artificial insemination is an effective fertility treatment and easily one of the most accessible ones for people who are having trouble getting pregnant.
What is IVF?
IVF is in vitro fertilization and is easily the most effective, but also most expensive, fertility treatment available. It requires a series of tests, ultrasounds, and fertility medications to make sure your eggs are up to par and able to be fertilized. An egg is removed from the body and mixed with sperm cells from the donor, which is the insemination. The egg and sperm are then stored together while the egg becomes fertilized, becoming embryos. After a few days, 1 or more of the embryos are inserted back into the uterus, which will hopefully implant and lead to pregnancy. It’s a much longer process, but it also has a high success rate. Still though, IVF is very expensive, with a single session costing as much as $15,000. (Source)
Why doesn’t my insurance cover fertility treatments?
Infertility is just as much a financial burden as it is an emotional and physical one. While some insurances cover fertility drugs, it’s only to an extent, leaving many couples having to pay out of pocket. IVF is the most effective fertility treatment available, with a super high success rate and a lot of couples being able to have a baby after only one session. But that $15,000 price tag isn’t reasonable, or realistic, for so many couples. Many insurance companies view fertility treatments like IVF as a number of parts which they can pick and choose what to cover and what we should pay for ourselves, sending the message that planning for a child is elective. Fundamentally, yes of course it’s elective, but experiencing infertility is not and if there’s something out there that can help fix that, then everyone should have access to it. There is hope for people living in 16 states here in the US, including New York, California, and Texas. These states have laws where fertility treatments are required to be covered by medical insurance — not entirely, but what they offer can help!
Why it’s okay to not want kids
Women who choose not to have children face an unbelievable amount of flack, criticism, and disrespect from people who don’t agree with them. You know what I have to say about that? Well, I won’t because it’s too explicit to say here but just know it’s not nice. Listen, it’s okay to not want to have children. People are always gonna have something to say about other people’s choices, especially when they don’t reflect their own, but that’s not now, nor has it ever been your problem. What people always seem to forget is that, as women, we have the choice whether or not we want to conceive. And we’ve come too far as a gender to have those archaic thought processes still be thrust upon us over something as trivial as having a child. Some people just aren’t cut out for it! Some people don’t want to have kids because of finances. Other people don’t want kids because they can’t and have no way to fix it. Whatever the reasoning behind a woman’s choice is, it is valid. What I’m trying to say is: don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad for choosing your choice. It doesn’t make you less worthy of people’s respect. It’s doesn’t mean you’re a bad person for not wanting to bring life into the world. And it damn sure doesn’t make you less of a woman.