You are not alone
Unintended infertility – why us?
What is infertility?
Infertility is the inability to become pregnant after up to two years of unprotected intercourse.
Why does this happen to us?
Did you know that the number of couples experiencing the same thing is constantly growing? Expert estimates suggest that one in six married couples face infertility, i.e. around 2 million couples in Germany remain involuntarily childless.
The increase in infertility is certainly, among other factors, a consequence of a shift in society: Nowadays, for many couples it is reasonable for their plan of life and family planning, to first learn a vocation and subsequently to have children. In 1970, 90 percent of the women giving birth to their first child were younger than 30, whereas in 1990, a quarter of the women giving birth for the first time were aged over 30. Already from the age of 30, female fertility slowly declines. This is aggravated by environmental pollution and challenging jobs.
What are the reasons for the inability to conceive?
There may be various reasons why you are unable to become pregnant. However, infertility is not only a women's issue: The statistical distribution shows, that with each 30 to 40 percent, the causes for infertility can be found equally in both men and women. In 15 to 30 percent of the couples affected by infertility, the causes can be found in both partners. And in 5 to 10 percent of the cases, no reason can be detected.
Therefore, infertility affects both partners to the same extent. On this account, it is understandable that both investigating the causes for infertility and treating it should always be done by both partners.
What can we do about it?
The treatment always depends on the causes for infertility. If you know these causes, a specific and promising treatment is possible. Sometimes all that needs to be done is to balance elevated hormone levels, e.g. due to thyroid dysfunction or increased production of male hormones (androgens).
If the oocyte maturation is disturbed, you can start off with a fairly simple hormonal stimulation. Then, fertilization occurs naturally. If additionally, the number or motility of the sperm is limited, the hormonal therapy will be combined with intrauterine insemination (IUI): In this procedure, the sperm is directly introduced into the uterus using a fine catheter at the time of ovulation.
Blockage of the fallopian tubes with no chance to unblock them by surgery, immobility or even absence of the fallopian tubes requires a fertilization outside the body, that is in vitro fertilization. Additionally to hormonal stimulation, a simple surgery on an outpatient basis has to be performed to retrieve the matured eggs.
In severe cases of male infertility, a single sperm cell can be introduced directly into the oocyte using a very thin needle (intracytoplasmic sperm injection, ICSI). If no sperm cells at all can be found in the man's ejaculate, you can try to retrieve sperm directly from the testicles or epididymis.
What are my chances of having a child?
Strange as it may seem: Getting pregnant is such a complex process that during one menstrual cycle, the chance of not getting pregnant is higher than the chance of getting pregnant. Even for healthy couples having sexual intercourse on a regular basis, the chances of getting pregnant during one menstrual cycle are only 20 to 30 percent. If everything goes as planned, the pregnancy rates per treatment are similar. Even modern medicine cannot outshine natural processes. This means, that you may need multiple cycles of treatment.
Of course, your individual chances are influenced by the degree of infertility and by the woman's age. In cases of treatable hormonal imbalances with or without a slight decrease in male fertility, about 70 percent of the treated couples achieve pregnancy.
If blocked fallopian tubes or severe male infertility require fertilisation outside the body, the chance of getting pregnant within four cycles of treatment is around 50 to 60 percent. In summary it can be stated: Around 60 to 80 percent of all couples who seek help because of infertility will have a baby, provided all possible treatments have been carried out.