Infertility Awareness. Why Is It So Important?

Infertility awareness

Why is infertility awareness important?

Did you know that there is a National Infertility Awareness Week? In 2017, it will be held on April 23-29. National Infertility Awareness Week has been a federally recognized health observance by the Department of Health and Human Services since 2010. It even has its own acronym: NIAW. [1]

Infertility awareness is important because 1 in 8 couples in America struggle with infertility. [1] Could infertility be a problem for you? Should you be more aware? How would you know if you are infertile? Are there any signs and symptoms?

The only sign of infertility could be not being able to have a pregnancy with normal unprotected sex. Infertility can be diagnosed if a woman is not able to get or stay pregnant despite trying for 6-12 months. There are many causes. Causes in men are just as common as causes in women. In many cases, the cause is never found. [2]

Most common causes of infertility in Women

Advanced age is the most common cause of infertility among women. A woman’s fertility begins to decrease by age 32. By age 40, the chance of a woman getting pregnant is only about 5 percent. [3] The most common cause of infertility in young women is a problem with ovulation. Ovulation can be affected by stress, smoking, alcohol, and weight. [2]

Two common ovulation disorders cause infertility: polycystic ovarian syndrome and primary ovarian failure. These conditions do have symptoms and they can include: [2]

  • Missed or irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning of scalp hair
  • Unusual growth of hair on the face or body
  • Acne
  • Weight gain
  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Painful sexual intercourse

Most common causes of infertility in men

Advanced age is a risk factor for male infertility. However, the risk does not increase as early as in women: male fertility does not begin to drop significantly until about age 60. [4] The most common cause of infertility in younger men is altered sperm production due to abnormal, dilated blood vessels that form near the testicles. [5]

These testicular veins drain blood away from the testicles. They are called testicular varicoceles. They rarely cause symptoms but they may be felt or seen as a thick, wormy mass of blood vessels on the surface of the scrotum or just above the testicle. [5]

Another common condition that reduces healthy sperm production is testicular failure, also called hypogonadism. Hypogonadism can be due to many causes, including liver disease, obesity, and diabetes. Symptoms may include: [6]

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Loss of energy
  • Shrinking testicles
  • Loss of body hair
  • Male breast enlargement
  • Hot flashes

So, be aware and talk to your doctor

If you are a man or a woman with any of the symptoms listed above, talk to your doctor. If you and your partner have been trying for a pregnancy for more than one year without success, talk to your doctor. If the female is 35 years of age or older, do not wait for the whole year. Let your doctor know after 6 months. [2,5]

Sources:

  1. National Infertility Association, National Infertility Awareness Week.
  2. gov, Infertility Facts Sheet.
  3. Fertility Coalition, A woman’s age affects her fertility.
  4. American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Age and Fertility.
  5. American Urological Association, What are Varicoceles? (links to treatment).
  6. Medpage, Hypogonadism Resource Center.
Christopher Iliades
Dr. Chris Iliades is a medical doctor with 20 years of experience in clinical medicine and clinical research. Chris has been a full time medical writer and journalist since 2004. His byline appears in over 1,000 articles online including EverydayHealth, The Clinical Advisor, and Healthgrades. He has also written for print media including Cruising World Magazine, MD News, and The Johns Hopkins Children's Center Magazine. Chris lives with his wife and close to his three children and four grandchildren in the Boston area.

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