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National Infertility Awareness Week

Personalized Cause

National Infertility Awareness Week Starts Today!

Welcome back, everyone!

Today’s post is dedicated to National Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility is a tough subject. It is surrounded by a swirling cloud of stigma, shame, guilt, depression, pain, loss, and fear. It used to be considered taboo to talk about fertility struggles openly.

Thankfully, people are much more open about their struggles now. The more open people are, the more we realize how common these issues are. There is a vast network of infertility support groups on social media. These social media support communities offer those struggling a sense of support. They also lessen the isolation felt by those who are struggling. Social media can be a powerful way to connect and support one another. These communities can be found using hashtags specific to the topic. #ttc and #infertility are a good place to start.

What is Infertility?

In simplest terms, infertility is the inability to get pregnant. The definition of infertility is the inability to get pregnant despite having regular unprotected sex for between six months and a year. The length of time depends on your age. Under age 35, it is considered infertility if you have tried to get pregnant for over a year but have not conceived. After age 35, the length of time is only six months. Fertility decreases over time after age 30. Your chances of becoming pregnant after age 35 are much lower. The length of time is decreased to six months so that any issues can be addressed quickly.

Infertility does not mean that you will never be able to have a child. Infertility is not the same as sterility. If a health problem is causing the issue it can be addressed. There are many factors that contribute to your ability to get pregnant. If one of those factors isn’t quite right, it can derail your ability to conceive. If both partners have fertility issues it can compound difficulty of getting pregnant. This occurs in around 20% of couples experiencing infertility. Medical intervention is always an option for couples that are unable to have a baby on their own.

What Causes Infertility?

Infertility can be caused by a lot of different health issues. Sometimes, there is no identifiable cause of infertility. Around 15% of couples that went through all the testing were unable to find any source for their struggle. Both men and women can have issues with fertility. It tends to affect both men and women pretty equally, but the causes are very different.

What Causes Infertility in Men?

The biggest cause of infertility in men is a problem with sperm. There are a lot of things that can affect sperm count or sperm quality. A low sperm count can make conception very difficult, if not impossible. A normal sperm count ranges anywhere from 15 million to 200 million sperm per millimeter. A low sperm count is considered anything under 15 million. A low sperm count doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant, it means it may take more tries. It’s a numbers game. The more attempts, the higher the odds. Another issue men can experience is low sperm motility. Low sperm motility just means that they don’t move quite as well. If the sperm aren’t strong swimmers, it makes it more difficult for them to reach the egg.

Sometimes external factors can affect a man’s sperm count or quality. Testicular injury can affect the production of sperm. Sperm count will typically return to normal as long as no permanent or long-term damage is done. Something as common as heat can also affect sperm. A recent study by Fertility and Sterility showed that the heat produced by electronics can affect sperm motility. It even found that it causes damage to the DNA in the sperm. If you put your laptop on your lap, be sure to use a special fan that goes under it.

Another common external factor that can affect sperm is medication, drugs, and alcohol. There are lots of different kinds of medications that are known to cause infertility. This is because they affect the production of sperm. Medications used to treat anxiety and depression, supplemental testosterone, anabolic steroids, hair loss treatments like Propecia, erectile dysfunction medicine, chemotherapy, and more can affect sperm. Heavy drinking, smoking cigarettes or marijuana, and other illegal drugs can also impact fertility.

What Causes Infertility in Women?

Infertility in women gets a little trickier. There are a lot of things that can affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant. The biggest issue for women is not ovulating . If ovulation doesn’t occur, the egg doesn’t release from the ovary. No egg means no baby. One of the most common causes is a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It can also be a result of long-term birth control pills use. Ovulation will usually return to normal after a few months off of the birth control.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, falls under the category of problems with ovulation. PCOS is a disease that causes hormone imbalance. The hormone imbalance causes issues with ovulation. PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in women. PCOS is more common in obese women because of an associated insulin resistance. Other medical issues that affect ovulation are hypothalamic dysfunction, premature ovarian failure, and excess prolactin production. Most of these issues can be treated with hormones.

Another common cause of infertility is Endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition that causes endometrial tissue to travel and grow outside of the uterus. Endometriosis can also affect the uterine lining. This can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Endometriosis can cause scarring wherever it occurs. Scarring within the uterus or fallopian tubes can make it difficult for the egg to implant. There is an increase in fertility immediately following surgery. The surgical treatment to remove endometriosis can cause scarring later on. The most common symptoms of endometriosis is very heavy and very painful periods.

Uterine and cervical issues are also potential causes of infertility. The most common uterine problems are fibroids and myomas. Fibroids and myomas are benign polyps or tumors that develop. These non-cancerous growths can prevent an egg from implanting. Sometimes, they can grow near the fallopian tube and block the opening. Other uterine and cervical issues can occur at birth or during development. The uterus can be shaped abnormally. There is a cervical malformation called cervical stenosis. Cervical stenosis means that the cervix is narrower than it should be. This can make it difficult for the sperm to reach the uterus.

Unexplained Infertility.

Generally speaking, infertility is broken up into thirds. One third of infertility cases are due to female infertility. One third is due to male infertility. The remaining third is due to either a combination or unexplained infertility. There isn’t always a clear and direct cause of infertility. There may be a few minor issues that all intersect when trying to conceive. Some factors that can contribute to infertility are age, weight, smoking, alcohol, caffeine, past sexually transmitted infections, and stress. Most of these factors can be minimized by simple lifestyle changes.

Are There Tests to Diagnose the Cause of Infertility?

There are many diagnostic tests to figure out what is causing your infertility. For women, the first step is determining if infertility is being caused by ovulation issues. This is done with a simple blood test. The blood test measures the level of progesterone in the blood. The body produces more progesterone after ovulating. The doctor may also test for other blood levels, such as prolactin. There are also at-home ovulation prediction kits. These kits test for the increase in luteinizing hormone that is produced before ovulation.

Other tests may be done depending on what the blood tests show. If the tests show a problem with ovulation, the doctor may order other hormone tests in addition to ovarian reserve testing. Ovarian reserve testing is done to determine how many eggs there are and the quality of those eggs. Women over 35 are more likely to have these problems. If the tests show that ovulation is normal, other tests can be done to find out what else may be preventing pregnancy. These tests include hysterosalpingography, ultrasound, hysteroscopy and laparoscopy. These will look for abnormalities in the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.

Can You Treat Infertility?

There are many things you can do to treat infertility. There are a handful of medicines that can stimulate ovulation for women. There are also other medications that used to treat specific issues like PCOS or high prolactin levels. In short, once you determine the source of the struggle, there are options to treat or fix the problem. If the issue stems from a structural problem, growth, blockage, scar tissue or endometriosis, there are surgical options to improve the issue.

If the issue can’t be corrected or improved with any of these therapies there are other methods. These methods are called reproductive assistance. Reproductive assistance is for people who have not been able to improve the cause of their infertility. It is also for couples who have been unable to determine the cause of infertility. The most common reproductive assistance methods are Intrauterine insemination and IVF.

Intrauterine insemination is a method that works by placing sperm inside the uterus around ovulation time. IVF is considered the most effective assisted reproductive method. IVF is a little more involved than intrauterine insemination. It requires egg retrieval and daily hormone injections. The eggs are combined with the sperm in a lab. Fertilized eggs are then implanted into uterus. If all else fails, there are always options such as adoption, sperm donation, egg donation, and surrogacy. If you want to become a parent, there is a way to make that happen.

It is important to realize that infertility is a fairly common problem. About one in eight couples will struggle with infertility. One of the biggest issues with infertility is the stigma surrounding it. Because infertility is personal in nature, some people try to hide their struggle and put on a brave face. Infertility is not a failure or a flaw. It is simply an obstacle, and it can be overcome with the help of a doctor. Remember to be kind to yourself, keep hoping for the best, and stay optimistic. One way or another, everything will be okay.

Thank you for reading! Check back in soon for a new post.

XOXO, PC

Sources: WebMD, Mayo Clinic

National Infertility Awareness Week

Personalized Cause

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It's National Infertility Awareness Week! Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse. The time period is six months if the woman is over age 35. "Infertility" is also the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth.

  • 7.4 million women worldwide -- or 11.9% of all women -- have received some type of infertility services in their lifetime (2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, CDC).
  • 1 in 8 couples (or 12% of married women) have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy (2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, CDC).
  • Approximately one-third of infertility is attributed to the female partner; one-third attributed to the male partner; and one-third is caused by a combination of problems in both partners or the source of the infertility is unexplained (www.asrm.org).
  • A couple between the ages of 29-33 with a normal functioning reproductive system has only a 20-25% chance of conceiving in any given month (National Women’s Health Resource Center).
  • After six months of trying, 60% of couples will conceive without medical assistance (Infertility As A Covered Benefit, William M. Mercer, 1997).
  • Approximately 44% of women with infertility have sought medical assistance. Of those who seek medical intervention, approximately 65% give birth. (Infertility As A Covered Benefit, William M. Mercer, 1997)

Show Your Support of National Infertility Awareness Week

During National Infertility Awareness Week, if you would like to show your support of couples who are struggling with this issue, please consider wearing one of our infertility support ribbons.

National Infertility Awareness Week

Personalized Cause

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National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) is here!

Hello everybody! Welcome to the second blog! This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, also known as #NIAW. Pink and blue awareness pins are used to raise awareness for Infertility. I decided that I’m going to list what the ribbon colors are for each cause at the top of the blog since we get a lot of questions about what color awareness pins are attributed to what causes.

Infertility has become more visible in recent years with the help of online support groups and social media platforms. Those currently battling infertility can all virtually get together and discuss their experiences and lend one another support or offer tips. The hashtag #ttc, which stands for trying to conceive, is one of the most popular infertility hashtags. If you, or someone you know is struggling to get pregnant, I would highly recommend a quick search on the social media platform of your choice to find a #ttc community to talk to.

Infertility can be a very isolating and lonely experience for couples, in part due to the stigma surrounding the issue. Many people experience feelings of shame or inadequacy when they are unable to conceive naturally, and as a result, they don’t talk openly about it with other people. While, of course, this is a very personal situation for anyone going through it, there is no need to be embarrassed about the struggle. In fact, infertility is actually pretty common! 1 in every 8 couples experiences infertility. A couple is classified as experiencing infertility if they have been unable to become pregnant after over a year of unprotected sex.

Infertility can be a little tricky to navigate through. It can be caused by reproductive issues in either person, both, or it can be caused by a laundry list of other factors.

Here’s an overview of causes. Since men and women have different anatomy, the causes will be separated by sex:

Things that can cause infertility in men include:

  • The sperm itself: under-production of sperm, or limited function of the sperm.
  • The delivery of the sperm: sometimes vessels can be blocked or there can be structural abnormalities.
  • The environment: overexposure to things like saunas, or Jacuzzi’s, can affect the body’s ability to produce sperm.
  • Overuse of harmful substances: overconsumption of things such as alcohol, cigarettes (any consumption of cigarettes is too much), marijuana, and metabolic steroids can seriously influence your ability to produce normal amounts of sperm as well as normal quality sperm.
  • Other health problems, and respective treatments: one major example of this is cancer and the resulting impairment of sperm production from chemotherapy or radiation.

Things that can cause infertility in women include (brace yourselves ladies, because it gets a little more complicated for women… no surprise there, because when is it not more complicated being a woman?! Just kidding. But also not.):

  • Issues with ovulation: ovulation disorders and hormonal disorders can effect how eggs are released, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, hyperprolactinemia, thyroid disorders.
  • Abnormalities of the uterus or cervix: this includes things like structural abnormalities of the cervix or uterus or shape of the uterus. It can also include polyps, benign tumors (meaning non-cancerous abnormal cell growths), or fibroids in the uterus.
  • Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes: there is something called salpingitis, which can cause inflammation of the fallopian tubes. Inflammation, when persistent and untreated, can result in damage over long periods of time. Salpingitis can be caused by P.I.D., aka pelvic inflammatory disease, which usually is the result of a sexually transmitted infection (STI), endometriosis, or adhesions.
  • Endometriosis: this super sucky (speaking from experience) disease occurs when the lining of the uterus, also known as the endometrium, starts to grow outside of the uterus. The migrating cell growth can cause issues in how the female reproductive organs function. It is most commonly diagnosed when women come in reporting abnormally painful, long, and heavy periods.
  • Early menopause, also referred to as primary ovarian insufficiency: this is when the ovaries begin to shut down earlier than in most women, and periods end before age 40. There isn’t a surefire cause of primary ovarian insufficiency, however, there are a few known factors that can raise the likelihood of early menopause. These factors include smoking (generally speaking, smoking leads to every horrible thing that can happen to you. you really shouldn’t smoke. I know that’s kind of a duh statement, but just reiterating the point.), immune system diseases, radiation or chemotherapy, Fragile X syndrome, and some genetic conditions like Turner syndrome.
  • Scar tissue: adhesions, or scar tissue, can form from pelvic inflammatory disease, pelvic infections; any time surgery is performed in the area (especially after C-sections. Women who have already had children without experiencing infertility can still deal with it later.), or even from an appendicitis.
  • Other health problems, and respective treatments: again, this includes cancer and radiation therapy or chemotherapy. In women, both radiation and chemo can have severe implications on the reproductive system, especially the eggs. Of course, there are also a myriad of other diseases that can contribute to infertility that are not directly located in the reproductive organs, such as celiac disease, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases like lupus.

As I’m sure you may have noticed, some of the risk factors are the same for guys and gals, alike. I know you’re all probably a little overwhelmed by that last listing of causes of infertility, but let me share just one more list of risk factors that apply to both men and women, that aren’t specific to which organs you have.

  • First and foremost, there is the issue of age. I think most of us are all aware that as women age, especially after a woman hits her mid 30’s, fertility swiftly declines. But, there is also a lot of evidence to suggest that men may also become less fertile after 40. Risk for the baby’s health also increases as the age of the parents’ increases. That is not to say it means the baby will definitely have health issues. It just means that certain issues become more likely, statistically.
  • Surprise, smoking is bad! Smoking anything is bad for infertility, and yes that means pot as well as cigarettes, cigars, or whatever else you’re trying to smoke. This applies to both hopeful parents. It makes miscarriage more likely, and makes fertility treatments less effective. If you’re paying for fertility treatments, you know they don’t come cheap. So don’t throw your money away.
  • Alcohol. Technically speaking, alcohol is not recommended for women trying to conceive or women already pregnant. Alcohol consumption has been linked to increased risk of infertility and birth defects. What you may not have heard is that alcohol consumption in men can also increase infertility by lowering sperm count and sperm motility.
  • Being overweight and sedentary, or not active, can contribute to infertility in both men and women.
  • Being underweight is just as much of an issue as being overweight. Some people are just naturally thin or naturally thick; I am in no way body shaming anybody! If you ask me, people are like French fries… awesome no matter what width they come in. You just have to be aware that if you are on either side of the spectrum, it may be a contributing factor in why conceiving is difficult.
  • Exercise. I get it, nobody likes exercise (and if you do… how can I convince myself to like it, too?). Here’s the thing about exercise, it just makes everything work better. That doesn’t sound scientific, because I didn’t read it in a medical journal. In every illness I have encountered thus far in life, every one of the doctors has suggested exercise as a way to improve symptoms. Now, it’s possible that when doctors take the Hippocratic Oath there’s some line in there about agreeing to conspire to torture people by telling them that their health depends on exercise. But, I have a feeling that they all may actually be on to something. Don’t tell them I said that, I will deny it. Back to the point, exercise is good for you. If you’re struggling with infertility and exercise isn't really your thing, it may be time to reassess.

At this point, I feel I should suggest that you take a deep cleansing breath because I know how daunting and overwhelming it is to absorb all of that information. It may seem like you don’t have enough time to figure out which of these many factors is responsible for your struggle, but luckily there are wonderful doctors out there who specialize in helping couples like you become parents. There are lots of treatment options that are available to couples in this day and age. We’ve got IUI (intrauterine insemination), IVF (in vitro fertilization), egg donors, surrogates, sperm donors, just to name a few options. You have all the reason in the world to be hopeful about having children. And I know that many of you out there are trying to keep your expectations low in order to avoid disappointment, which I completely understand, but just keep a little hope tucked away in there, too.

If you are struggling with infertility, or someone you love is, consider one of our custom awareness ribbons. Wearing a custom awareness ribbon can be more empowering than you think. It can also be a silent but powerful gesture of support. Yes, I’d love it if you bought one, but I also really do believe that.

If you would like to purchase one of our custom awareness ribbons for infertility, which is a pink and blue awareness pin, here’s the link:

https://www.personalizedcause.com/personalized-awareness-ribbons/pink-and-blue-awareness-ribbon-pin-personalized?rq=pink%20and%20blue

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