The things fertility specialists look at are the circumstances, age of the parents, availability of a sexual partner and the overall health picture. We look at what does it take for the sperm and egg to get together, fertilize and become a viable pregnancy.
Some of the questions we ask to understand each individual’s situation are:
- Are viable eggs available?
- Is viable sperm available?
- Is the fallopian tube healthy?
- Are there other factors, such as fibroids?
- What is the health of the uterus?
We look at these factors as well as the overall health of the individual. All of this helps us figure out what we’re facing, and – ultimately – what needs to be done to help increase the chances of conception.
If I could isolate one thing as the key, I would go with the age of the woman. Age is the greatest factor we’re dealing with when it comes to fertility.
According to studies from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), fertility starts dropping around age 34. As you near 40, fertility really drops sharply.
That said, however, there is no rule that stands for all women. Your fertility is a very personal, individual thing. Some women are fertile at 41. Others are infertile at 26. That is why it is very important to take control of your fertility and understand your body if you wish to become pregnant.
I use several guidelines to help our patients understand their fertility:
- Anyone that has a regular menstrual cycle, is under age 35, is otherwise in good health, has unprotected sex for a year, and still has not gotten pregnant should come in to see a fertility specialist.
- Other factors, such as being over age 35, smoking, being underweight or overweight, lack of a regular menstrual cycle, prior medical conditions, treatments such as chemotherapy or a surgical procedure such as a vasectomy, are all signals that you should come in at six months – or even sooner – of not getting pregnant.
A comprehensive exam that looks at many factors and considers the health of the male partner can give a clearer picture of what is going on. And having that knowledge gives the patient and her partner power to determine what path is the best for them in trying to get pregnant.
Senait Fisseha, MD, JD, is the medical director for the University of Michigan Health System’s Center for Reproductive Medicine. Her areas of specialty cover all aspects of infertility including: polycystic ovary syndrome, recurrent pregnancy loss, other endocrine disorders resulting in infertility; as well as assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF/ICSI, and gamete and embryo cryopreservation.
The University of Michigan Center for Reproductive Medicine uses a multidisciplinary approach that brings the expertise of endocrinology and infertility specialists, OB-GYN’s, urologists, lab technicians and research scientists together to help each of our clients have access to the latest expertise and technology available – through one convenient center.