Why am I not getting pregnant?
If after a year of consistently
trying to get pregnant, without success, a basic infertility
evaluation may be in order. If the female partner is over
30 or has a past history of irregular periods, previous pelvic
infections, surgery, pregnancy losses, DES exposure, an infertility
work-up should be started earlier. You can start with your
regular Ob/Gyn or you may go to a clinic who specializes in
infertility. To find a good infertility clinic, ask for a
referral from your regular doctor, ask friends and neighbors
(remember one in six people experience infertility in some
sort), or call several offices listed in your yellow pages
and interview them before you make an appointment.
A complete evaluation of the female generally takes three
or four menstrual cycles and
generally follows a specific sequence. The male evaluation
generally is much shorter.
One thing to keep in mind as you begin is that this process
has to take priority, at least
short-term, in your daily life. Why? Because it follows a
specific sequence, there are
specific days on which you must have intercourse. You may
have to report to your Doctor's
office within a specific number of hours after intercourse.
Lovemaking may lose some of its
spontaneity. And other areas of our lives take a lower priority.
Some may find it difficult to take the time off work needed
for testing. And further, for some, it may be a difficult
thing to talk about or share with friends and relatives.
Because of all of these things, and the fact that infertility
by its nature can be stressful for
some, it has the potential to put a dent in your relationships
with friends, family, co-workers,
and spouses. If you are aware of this from the beginning,
you may be able to take action
before you get stressed, so that you and your spouse can more
easily deal with some of the
emotional hurdles together. Talking about what each of you
is going through both emotionally and physically together
from the beginning, can be strengthening, in itself. And planning
for ways to relieve stress as you get further into the process
will make the whole experience much easier.
Steps you can take
Start by planning to go together to as many Doctors appointments
as you can manage. Use whatever resources you can find to
educate yourself and your spouse, so you are both working
from the same information. Decision-making is a lot easier
if you both have the
same knowledge. Decide together, how best to engage family
members if you choose to tell them. They will be curious and
anxious (which may sometimes come across as intrusive), but
try to remember they are only asking out of love for you and
your spouse. One of the ways you may be able to help them
is to give them a copy of "Coping with Infertility: How
Family and Friends Can Help" which is RESOLVE Fact Sheet
What kinds of tests are
done for the female infertility work-up?
A doctor may request Basal Body Temperature (BBT) charts to
determine when and if the patient is ovulating. Other testing
may scheduled based on special times during her cycle.
Perhaps a better way to predict the time of ovulation is with
an ovulation predictor kit that
tests with urine, similar to a pregnancy test. A plasma progesterone
blood test can be taken
midway between ovulation and menstruation to document ovulation.
A series of ultrasounds may be taken to monitor growth of
follicles and ovarian response to Follicle Stimulating Hormone
(FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH).
Evaluation of the Uterine Lining
An endometrial biopsy is used to evaluate how uterine tissue
is building up and thickening
after ovulation. It is usually done after day 21 of the cycle.
A tiny sample of the uterine lining is taken. It is uncomfortable
because it is necessary to dilate the cervix, which causes
moderate to strong cramping. Your doctor can recommend ways
to alleviate discomfort.
This evaluation is usually done through a series of blood
tests to check levels of follicle
stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Blood
tests to check the level of
prolactin should also be done. Testosterone and androgen level
(male hormone) will also be
checked if the patients has irregular cycles. Also a blood
test for thyroid dysfunction should
be done by measuring levels of TSH and free T4 in the blood.
Fallopian Tube Evaluation
Hysterosalphingogram (HSG) is an x-ray used to determine if
the fallopian tubes are open. A
dye is inserted through the dilated cervix, x-rays are taken
as the dye flows up and out of the tubes. The procedure usually
takes 20-30 minutes. Follow-up x-rays may be taken as well.
This test has a reputation for being uncomfortable for some
(and absolutely no problem for others) because of cramping
due to the cervix being dilated and the dye flowing into the
cavity, much like menstrual cramps. Some women also experience
shoulder pain afterward. This test can be therapeutic in that
the dye flowing through the tubes my remove tiny mucus
plugs, thereby increasing the chances of pregnancy.
Sonohysterography (saline infusion
sonography) uses saline to inflate the uterus to view the
uterine cavity with ultrasound. Either a CAT (computerized
axial tonography) scan or MRI (Magnetic Resonance imaging)
may be done if the hysterosalpingogram shows a pelvic mass
such as a fibroid. These tests are not routinely done as part
of a routine infertility evaluation. These tests are painless
"Endoscopy" allows a doctor to inspect the internal
pelvic organs. There are several varieties
of endoscopy. They include:
Laparoscopy - the most frequently used technique to evaluate
the outside of the uterus, the
tubes and the ovaries. Used to check for endometriosis. The
woman is put under general
anesthesia and is in the hospital. A laparoscope is inserted
through a small incision near the
bellybutton and/or near the groin area. Pain is minimal and
many women return to full
activity within 1-2 days.
Culdoscopy - a slim telescope is inserted into the abdominal
cavity via a small incision in
the vaginal wall. Local anesthetic is usually used.
Hysteroscopy - used to see the internal cavity of the uterus.
Involves inserting a small
telescope-like device through the cervix into the uterus.
General or local anesthetic is
MALE - FEMALE INTERACTION EVALUATION
The main test used to check for sperm survival in the cervical
mucus is the post-coital
test (after intercourse). It is used to evaluate how a man's
sperm and a woman's mucus
interact. It is done during ovulation. After intercourse,
you are instructed to go to your doctor's office, where they
take a swab of cervical mucus to look for sperm activity and
quality and viscosity of the mucus.
How much will it cost?
Average cost for an infertility work-up can be as high as
$5000 including laparoscopy.
What if I can't seem to
get pregnant even if my work-up seems to be OK---what are
For those who can't get pregnant
on their own after getting a clean bill of health from the
infertility evaluation of both partners, there are several
options. Here are just a few that may
be done separately in or some combination recommended by your
Medication to induce and regulate ovulation --- Clomiphene
(The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends
a maximum treatment of six
cycles of clomiphene.) Generally in pill form.
Medication to produce a higher level of LH to trigger the
release of the mature egg.
hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) is a natural hormone secreted
by the placenta. It is given by intramuscular injection usually
in combination with clomiphene.
Medication to decrease the level of DHEAS (adrenal hormones)
that can inhibit the action of clomiphene --- Dexamethasone
or prednisone will allow the
clomiphene to trigger ovulation.
Medication to induce ovulation in various fertility treatments.
hMG (human Menopausal Gonadotropin) Humegon, Pergonal
, or Repronex. Available
as an injectable medication.
Medication to stimulate the growth and development of the
FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) brand named Gonal F,
Fertinex, and Follistim and
given by injection.
Medication to increase progesterone levels after ovulation.
Progesterone, a naturally occurring hormone is administered
by intramuscular injection,
orally, or intravaginally.
Used for about 10% if couples with a male infertility problem
such as low count or low
motility. There are several types of inseminations that include
placing the partners sperm
near the cervix, near the uterus, near the fallopian tubes,
etc. There are also donor inseminations where the sperm of
the male partner is unable to be used due to genetic factors,
motility factors, etc. A donor is chosen through a sperm bank
or other resource, the donor is then tested for certain infections
that can be transmitted via semen to the woman, such as HIV,
syphilis, hepatitis, etc. The American Society for Reproductive
Medicines (ASRM) recommends that physicians use only frozen
semen and that the specimen be frozen and stored at least
180 days, then tested again for HIV. The woman is inseminated
as close to ovulation as possible.
Where can I go to get more
There are several places on this website that you can use
to help you take the next steps.
You can call our help line, leave a message and one of our
volunteers will give you a call within 48 hours. There are
several sources of written information too. Refer to the list
of RESOLVE Fact Sheets at the foot of this page.
This is a very stressful time
and many of us find talking with someone who has gone through
what we're experiencing is a great place to get information.
Most of our members have
experienced infertility in some form and by joining RESOLVE,
you can bring those people
within reach and take comfort from the large proportion of
them who have found a way to
create the family they sought so fiercely and have resolved
their infertility issues.
For further information, see
the following Fact Sheets from RESOLVE National
Family and Friends - how they can help
Meditation and Infertility
Stress of Infertility / How to Cope
Selecting an Infertility Physician
Bromocriptine (Parlodel): Prolactin problems
DES: Its impact on Infertility
Overview of Drugs
Infections: role in Infertility and Pregnancy Loss
Luteal Phase Defects
"Husband" [sic] Insemination
Donor Insemination: Medical and Emotional Aspects
An Overview of the Infertility Work-up and the Tests Used.
Polycystic Ovarian Disease
Premature ovarian failure (early menopause)
Laparoscopy and Hysteroscopy
Microsurgical & Laser techniques for Tubal Repair
Uterine Factors in Infertility