Starting a family is one of the most exciting times of a couple’s life. But for roughly one in six couples in Canada who have trouble conceiving, it can be frustrating and exhausting.
So, how do you know if you’re infertile? And when is the right time to seek professional help? Doctor Dan Nayot, an infertility specialist at the Toronto Centre for Advanced Reproductive Technology, stopped by to help answer these questions and more.
How is infertility defined and when is the right time to see a specialist?
- Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after 12 months of unprotected sex
- But issues that come up before the end of a year can also contribute. An irregular period is a common reason that patients may want to see their doctor to make sure that everything is in check.
- For healthy, young women, we generally recommend seeing a specialist after 12 months of trying; if you’re over 35, after six months of trying.
- However, if you suspect you may have difficulty conceiving or are even just interested to learn more about your reproductive health, any time is the right time.
What exactly do ‘old eggs’ mean?
- Early to mid-30s is a good estimate of when your fertility potential really starts to decline.
- The decline is more significant in your late 30s to 40s.
- Women are born with a set number of eggs and both the quantity and quality of these eggs decrease as women age. On the contrary, men are constantly producing new sperm (it takes about two-three months for sperm to be made), and so age is much less a factor for men.
What are the common fertility treatments and how much do they cost?
- Fertility treatments can range from the simple (such as monitoring the menstrual cycle and helping the couple properly time their intercourse) to the more involved (such as in vitro fertilization).
- The costs depend on the treatment, and partially on the province you live in. In Ontario, the majority of the initial testing, which may include the bloodwork, ultrasound and the consultation, are covered by OHIP.
- Before you proceed with any fertility treatment, you need to consider several issues: What is the chance this treatment will work? What are the risks associated with it (i.e. side effects from the medications, the risk of having twins)? What is the cost? What are the alternative options?
What are the success rates for the different treatments?
- When talking about treatments, we usually speak in “cycles,” which refers to monthly ovulation.
- The number of cycles really varies depending on your personal situation. Sometimes all you need is a single cycle to get pregnant. I have even had the good fortune of meeting a couple for a fertility consultation and finding out that they were in fact pregnant and didn’t know.
- Just to put things into prospective, for a young healthy couple just starting to try to get pregnant, their chance to conceive is about 15-20 per cent per month. Some fertility treatments have success rates over 30 per cent per cycle, but again this depends on the patient and their partner.
- Choosing the right treatment is critical. Of course, the goal is to have a baby, but doing so in the safest way possible is key. You and your doctor need to discuss which treatment makes sense for you.