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Infertility is more common than you might think. Here's when to seek help

Did you know one in eight couples will struggle with infertility? Dr. Joshua Kapfhamer with the Center for Reproductive Medicine said there are options for help.

MINNEAPOLIS — We are coming off National Parents Day on Sunday, but did you know one in eight couples will struggle with infertility? But Dr. Joshua Kapfhamer, a physician with the Center for Reproductive Medicine, said the most important thing to know is there are options in your journey.

"This is your journey," Dr. Kapfhamer said. "It’s not your siblings journey, it’s not your friends, it’s not your coworkers, it’s not even the journey of an online blogger," he said. "Your story is yours alone," Dr. Kapfhamer said. 

Dr. Kapfhamer said that even in optimal conditions, the likelihood of getting pregnant in a menstrual cycle is about 20%.  

Factors that could contribute to infertility vary. Dr. Kapfhamer said age is the most significant factor. As age increases, pregnancy rates decrease. Weight is also another issue. He said that can be overweight or underweight. Some other factors include menstrual irregularities, endometriosis, recurrent miscarriages, other chronic medical conditions that could affect fertility, and the male factor.

"I work with a lot of people in the LGBTQ+ community and they have their own unique set of challenges in terms of sperm donation, egg donation hospice gestational carrier, so again, no one story," he said. "This is definitely not one size fits all," Dr. Kapfhamer said.

When should you seek help?

Dr. Kapfhamer said certainly if you’re over age 40. He said women are born with a set number of eggs and that number will decrease as they age. Dr. Kapfhamer said the older women get, there is a higher probability of those eggs fertilizing and resulting in an abnormal chromosomal embryo. "It's not to say that people can’t or don’t, but success rates are lower," he said.

Dr. Kapfhamer also recommends talking to a fertility specialist if you have underlying medical conditions that you know are going to require fertility assistance. He said in that case, consult with a fertility specialist right away.

He said those over 35-years-old but under 40 should seek help after about six months. Healthy couples with no obvious issues under 35 should get help after one year of trying.

"The reality is infertility sucks," Dr. Kapfhamer said. "That’s a true statement no matter who you are, no matter where you’re at in your journey," he said. "The more people you have to kind of share that experience and those emotions and that support network that can really be beneficial and helpful."

If you have questions or are struggling, meet with an OBGYN or reproduction specialist to discuss testing ways to optimize your fertility and potential treatment options. An OBGYN can go through medication or other medical problems and make sure that you’re on the right path to parenthood.

Dr. Kapfhamer said if you’re under 35 and just about to start, it is not a bad idea to meet with OBGYN to do a pregnancy consult to talk about some of the things to expect. He said that in healthy young couples, roughly 60% will conceive within the first four to six months and about 85% within one year. 

A final suggestion from Dr. Kapfhamer is to stay off the internet.  

"While all the right answers are there, so are the wrong ones," he said.  "There's no way for people to differentiate," Dr. Kapfhamer said.

Here are a few resources Dr. Kapfhamer recommends:

American Society for Reproductive Medicine, or ASRM

ReproductiveFacts.org

RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association