If you’ve consistently tried to conceive for a year without success, you might want to consider medical help.
Who to choose
If possible, find an obstetrician/gynecologist who’s board-certified in reproductive endocrinology. If you choose an OB-GYN who is not board-certified in this specialty, be sure to ask about their training and experience.
Infertility treatment can be stressful. So you should also look for a doctor who is a good communicator, who understands the emotional pain of infertility, and who treats patients with compassion. It’s important that you and your spouse both feel comfortable with the physician you choose.
They’ll want to know about your medical histories — including alcohol or drug use, miscarriages, abortions, significant weight gains or losses, and diseases. If both partners have a clean bill of health, the doctor will perform infertility tests.
For the husband, this includes semen analysis. Semen is evaluated for count (number of sperm cells), morphology (shape of those cells), and motility (ability of the cells to travel). A normal semen analysis shows results of over 20 million sperm per cubic centimeter, 30% with normal shape, and 50% showing normal forward movement. Lower numbers can indicate reproductive problems.
For the wife, several tests can determine the health of the ovaries or uterus. An endometrial biopsy can evaluate the uterine lining. Laparoscopy, an outpatient surgical procedure, is used to get a better view of the reproductive organs and can also be used to remove existing scar tissue. And imaging studies, such as ultrasound, might be used to evaluate possible causes of infertility.
Depending on the outcome of these tests, your doctor might suggest further action to help you conceive.
For the husband, this could include:
- Medication to increase sperm production.
- Surgery to correct a problem such as a varicose vein on the scrotum (the condition can increase scrotal temperature enough to lower the sperm count).
- “Sperm washing” — a procedure where sperm are gathered, cleaned, concentrated, and used to inseminate the wife.
- Wearing boxer shorts and avoiding hot tubs, since overheating the genital area inhibits sperm production.
For the wife:
- Fertility drugs may be prescribed. (The type of medication depends on the diagnosis.)
- Laparoscopic surgery might also be recommended to correct problems with the uterus, the fallopian tubes, or the ovaries.
In-vitro fertilization could be presented as an option:
- This process involves fertilizing eggs in a laboratory. It’s a costly procedure, and it isn’t always successful.
- It also raises important moral and ethical questions.
What if nothing works?
Give prayerful thought to the possibility of adoption. We realize that adoption isn’t a cure for the sorrow and frustration of infertility. Still, many couples have been blessed by an adopted child.
It’s important to be honest with yourselves and with God about your desire for a biological child. But ask the Lord to help you live with hands and hearts that are open to His story for building your family.
Dealing with infertility can be challenging, but you’re not alone. Would you let us come alongside you? We’d love to hear your story and talk with you in more detail.
Give us a call. Our Counseling department can offer referrals to support groups, counselors, and qualified Christian therapists who can help you work through these issues.
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Infertility (resource list)
The Infertility Companion: Hope and Help for Couples Facing Infertility by Sandra L. Glahn and William R. Cutrer (Zondervan)