What is Infertility?

Get Started With TRIO
A micrograph of In Vitro Fertilization.

What is Infertility?

Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after 1 year of regular, unprotected sex. For those over the age of 35, your doctor may recommend you see a fertility specialist after 6 months of trying to conceive.

Infertility may mean that you’ve never been able to conceive (primary infertility) or have conceived in the past but are struggling now (secondary infertility). If you are suffering from infertility, you are not alone. 1 in 6 Canadian couples will experience infertility at some point in their lives. Whichever type of infertility you are suffering from, the experts at TRIO are ready to help you achieve your dreams of becoming a parent.

Causes of Infertility

Discover the most common causes of infertility below and how we can help you to overcome them.

Ovulation Disorders

The ovaries are an essential part of the female reproductive system. They nurture your eggs as they grow and produce key hormones that are important for your fertility. If you suffer from an ovulation disorder it may mean that you ovulate infrequently or that you do not ovulate at all. Symptoms of ovulation disorders:

  • Menstrual cycle that is over 35 days
  • Menstrual cycle that is less than 21 days
  • Irregular or absent periods

Ovulatory disorders can be caused by hormonal imbalances or problems with your ovarian function. Common conditions that can result in ovulation disorders include PCOS, hypothalamic dysfunction in the brain, ovarian failure, and some medications. Cycle monitoring is a useful way to track your menstrual cycle and make sure you’re ovulating properly. If you are struggling with an ovulation disorder and trying to conceive, reach out to our team to review your options.

Blocked Fallopian Tubes

The fallopian tubes are the site where the egg and sperm meet, and fertilization occurs. Any damage or blockage within the fallopian tube can stop fertilization from happening or prevent a fertilized egg from reaching the uterus. Many women who have blocked fallopian tubes do not have any symptoms, however, the following can put you at an increased risk:

  • Sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea 

  • Previous abdomen or pelvic surgery

  • The condition endometriosis 

If you are worried that you may have blocked fallopian tubes and you are trying to get pregnant, contact one of our experts to discuss your options.

Uterine or Cervical Dysfunction

The uterus is a muscular cavity that receives a fertilized egg and helps it develop into a baby. The cervix is a cylinder-shaped tube that connects the uterus to the vagina and plays a fundamental role during birth. Many uterine and cervical disorders can cause infertility by stopping implantation or causing a miscarriage. 

  • Fibroids and polyps: Common uterine growths that can stop a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. 

  • Congenital Disorders: Some conditions you are born with, such as an unusually shaped uterus, can make it more difficult for you to get pregnant and maintain the pregnancy.

  • Cervical Stenosis: A narrow cervix can make it difficult for sperm to swim through the opening.

Some Uterine and Cervical conditions can be fixed through surgery. Speak to one of our TRIO experts to see whether this may be right for you.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a disease where the tissue that normally grows in your uterus also grows in other areas of your reproductive tract. This tissue grows and sheds each month in the same way it would if it were in your uterus, however, the resulting period is unable to leave your body, leading to inflammation and scarring. Endometriosis can cause your fallopian tubes to become blocked and can damage your egg quality.

Symptoms of endometriosis: 

  • Heavy periods

  • Painful periods 

  • Pain during or after sex 

Many women find that surgery helps to manage their endometriosis, however, this option isn’t right for everyone. If you suffer from endometriosis and are trying to get pregnant, contact our specialist team. They will be able to guide you to the treatment option that will work best for you.

Hormonal Conditions

Hormones are essential for regulating your menstrual cycle and for supporting a pregnancy. The hormone FSH makes your eggs grow each month whilst the hormone LH lets your body know when it’s time to ovulate. Both of these hormones are made by the pituitary gland in your brain and any issues with their production can interfere with your ability to ovulate. 

Progesterone helps the egg to implant and supports a healthy pregnancy. After ovulation, the concentration of this hormone should rise, thickening the uterine lining. Low levels of progesterone result in a thin uterus lining which can make it difficult for the embryo to implant. Some women with low progesterone get pregnant but suffer from a miscarriage shortly after. 

Simple hormone checks during cycle monitoring will let you know whether your hormones are in balance. Contact us if you are concerned about a hormonal condition and you are trying to conceive.

Poor Egg Quality

The term ‘egg quality’ usually refers to the genetic features that the egg has. A normal egg will have half the genetic code, called chromosomes, that a normal body cell contains. Improper egg development can lead to the egg having more or less genetic information than it should. Such eggs are termed ‘aneuploid’. Aneuploid eggs will create embryos that also have the wrong amount of genetic information. These embryos typically don’t implant successfully or may result in miscarriage

Risk factors for reduced egg quality:

  • Increased age

  • Low ovarian reserve

  • Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy

  • Smoking

IVF treatment, as well as preconception care, can help those with poor egg quality become parents.

Sperm Factor Infertility

It takes two to tango, and for successful fertilization you need a healthy egg and sperm to meet and interact. If your partner has a reduced concentration of motile sperm, it can be difficult for this to happen. Sperm factor infertility (also known as male factor infertility) affects up to half of all couples suffering from infertility. A semen analysis, performed by TRIO’s specialist laboratory team, will let you know how your partner’s sperm are looking. We also recommend getting a DNA fragmentation test, to check the genetic quality of the sperm. Luckily, many causes of sperm factor infertility are due to lifestyle and patients often see improvements in their sperm quality through lifestyle changes and supplements. Contact us today for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you are under 35 and have been trying to conceive for over 1 year, it would be beneficial to have fertility investigations. If you are over 35, it is recommended to have fertility tests after 6 months of trying.

You should be having regular, unprotected intercourse every 2-3 days between days 7 and 21 of your cycle to maximize your chances of conception.

Changes in lifestyle such as stopping smoking, reducing intake of saturated fats, lowering stress, and increasing your intake of antioxidants can all improve your sperm parameters. TRIO works hand-in-hand with Conceive Health — naturopaths who specialize in preconception care who can help you optimize your lifestyle.

Your TRIO MD and specialist team will be able to guide you to the fertility treatment that is best suitable to you. Contact us today to discuss your options.