The diagnosis that lacks an explanation
One of the most frequent infertility diagnosis for women is – unexplained infertility. The statistical data you can come across varies, but the numbers are usually going somewhere between 20 and 30% of couples who are trying to conceive.
After trying to conceive for a reasonably long time, seeing a fertility specialist and going through series of tests, we all expect answers. And not just that, we expect a plan, a strategy that will lead us to pregnancy. That is why the diagnosis of unexplained infertility can be so stressful, depressing and very unsatisfying. On Onuava we will talk about what underlying causes could be hiding behind this vague diagnosis and what you can do about it.
So what is unexplained infertility?
If you go through all the usual diagnostic testing and they all come back with normal results, your fertility expert will probably announce that your cause of infertility is unknown. What does this mean exactly?
Fertilisation is a very, very complicated process with many factors that need to be aligned in order for a baby to be conceived. If we look at the main steps in this process, it’s already clear how many links there are in the fertilisation chain – the woman needs to be ovulating, sexual intercourse needs to happen during the fertile window, the man’s sperm needs to be mobile, healthy and to contain enough spermatozoids, both partners need to be of considerable good health, the woman’s womb cannot be hostile to her partner’s sperm, etc. As if this is not enough, if we go deeper, on the cellular level, we may be able to grasp how complex this process really is. Mobility, morphology, DNA material, cell development, immune system’s response…
In a process with so many variables, it is no surprise that our chances to conceive even if there isn’t an underlying fertility issues, are slim. Data says that a couple with no fertility issues trying to conceive has only a 20% chance to succeed. This percentage goes way down if one or both partners have a fertility problem.
Fertility diagnostic testing is focused on a few main culprits for fertility issues – these may include a physical exam with a Pap smear, cervical mucus testing, ultrasound, hormone tests, etc. Unfortunately, there could be many more causes of infertility than these tests can cover – and there lies the diagnosis of unexplained infertility.
The likelihood of this diagnosis increases with age in women, especially after the age of 38. With age, our eggs’ amount and quality decrease, making the conception more difficult. Other possible causes for unexplained infertility in women could be mild endometriosis, while in men one of the most probable causes could be sperm DNA damage.
As you can see, various factors could be hiding behind the unexplained infertility. Everything from a nutritional deficiency, over to different health issues and problems with cervical mucus.
One factor that seems pretty obvious is that the timing of a sexual intercourse needs to be right – fertilisation can only happen during your fertile window and this is easy to miss since it only lasts 5 to 6 days, with 2 peak days. A study performed at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, showed that the reason for many couples not having much luck trying to conceive could be as simple as bad timing. The researchers interviewed over 200 women who applied for some assisted conception treatment. Even though 68% of these women claimed that their timing is accurate, the data showed this was far from the reality – only 13% of women could pinpoint their ovulation and time intercourse correctly.
Timing intercourse with your ovulation significantly increases your chances to conceive and it is a first step to take before considering assisted reproductive treatments. There are many methods available that exceed old calendar and pen both by simplicity and accuracy – you can learn more about those in our article.
In our future texts, we’ll be discussing possible causes, how different lifestyle choices and seemingly unrelated health issues may be affecting your fertility, as well as what you can do to increase your chances to conceive. Stay tuned!