Nowadays, medical teams have access to a large variety of tests that enable them to diagnose and treat many causes of infertility.
Sometimes, even after thorough fertility testing, the cause of infertility remains unclear. This is called “unexplained infertility.” If you have heard this term in a physician’s office, you aren’t alone — it affects up to 50% of fertility patients in Canada. However, with the right support and treatment, it’s entirely possible to grow the family you have been dreaming about.
Below, we review what unexplained infertility is, some potential causes, and the treatment options available.
What are the common causes of infertility?
If you have been trying to conceive for a year without success, or 6 months if you are over 35, your family physician may refer you to a fertility specialist for comprehensive testing.
Some of the most common causes of infertility include:
- Ovulation Disorders, e.g., PCOS
- Blocked Fallopian Tubes
- Reduced Ovarian Reserve
- Uterine or Cervical Dysfunction
- Hormonal Conditions
- Poor Egg Quality
- Reduced Sperm Quality/ Quantity
What is Unexplained Infertility?
Although there isn’t a textbook definition for unexplained infertility, most physicians describe it as the inability to conceive without a diagnosable medical cause.
Patients with unexplained infertility may have normal test results. This means they will have regular ovulation cycles, open fallopian tubes, a normal uterus, ideal sperm quality, a balanced hormone profile, and properly timed intercourse.
Unexplained infertility can be primary or secondary:
- Primary Unexplained Infertility: A pregnancy has never been achieved.
- Secondary Unexplained Infertility: A pregnancy has been achieved at some point in the past.
What Are Some Causes of Unexplained Infertility?
Although we can perform thorough fertility testing, there are still some factors we’re unable to assess during natural conception.
Causes of unexplained infertility may include:
- Problems in egg and sperm interactions during fertilization
- Poor egg quality
- Poor sperm quality
- Reduced embryo quality and poor embryo development
- Improper embryo and womb interactions during implantation
- Immunological factors
- Subtle fallopian tube abnormalities
- Subtle endometriosis
Can You Get Pregnant with Unexplained Infertility?
Yes, you can become pregnant! Patients with unexplained infertility can conceive without medical intervention, though their chances of a natural pregnancy are lower. If you have unexplained infertility, your doctor may recommend fertility treatment to help you conceive and have a healthy pregnancy.
Fertility Treatment and Unexplained Infertility
Every fertility journey is unique, and your medical team will work with you to review your options and answer questions. Below are some of the most common treatments for unexplained infertility.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
During IUI, a person with ovaries will be given fertility drugs to help them ovulate. A semen sample will be processed in the laboratory to clean away dead sperm cells and debris to ensure only the best possible sperm are available for treatment. The sperm is placed into the uterus, to place them as close to the eggs as possible.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
If IUI doesn’t lead to a successful pregnancy, or if your physician doesn’t feel that IUI will be beneficial, they may recommend IVF.
Because IVF happens outside of the body, we can examine certain factors that we cannot observe through natural conception or IUI. For example, we can assess the visual quality of the eggs and sperm, and how well the egg and sperm interact with one another during fertilization. At TRIO, we also use a time-lapse incubator. This device takes regular photographs of the embryos and allows us to monitor their development.
Being able to study the eggs, sperm, and embryos more closely may give us a better idea of why someone with unexplained infertility is struggling to conceive.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
ICSI procedure bypasses the need for the sperm to interact with and penetrate the egg during fertilization, as a single sperm is directly injected into each egg. ICSI may be helpful for patients who experience low or failed fertilization through IVF.
Improving egg and sperm quality through naturopathic preconception care can help support your success with fertility treatment. A preconception program can include:
- Lifestyle Enhancements
- Stress Reduction
- Fertility Diet and Exercise Regime
- Fertility Acupuncture
- Fertility Supplements
- Prioritizing Sleep
Fertility counselling can help provide emotional support and build resilience during fertility treatment. At TRIO, we work with a team of registered psychotherapists, social workers, and clinical psychologists who are specially trained to support patients throughout their fertility treatment.
If you struggle with unexplained infertility and would like more information about how TRIO can support you, kindly get in touch. Our team is on hand to provide the guidance and care you need on your fertility journey.