New Hope for Infertile Couples

The causes of fertility problems, and how to find medical help and support.

| January/February 1984

This issue's column was guest-written for Dr. Tom Ferguson—by a contributor to Medical Self-Care magazine. 

An estimated three and a half million married couples in the United States—one-sixth of all married couples in this country—are currently infertile. The figure represents an increase of almost 50% during the past 20 years.

However, thanks in large part to recent medical advances, the situation is anything but hopeless for the millions of Americans now being treated for infertility. The success rate for solving the problem has risen from 50% in the 1960's to about 70% today. And when having children is simply impossible for a couple, there are support groups that can help them deal with the emotional complexities that accompany the situation.

In addition, physicians as a group are becoming more enlightened about the subject than they were in the past. Traditionally, infertility was viewed as a woman's malady . . . but doctors now estimate that 40% of all couples' organic fertility problems rest with men. The woman is judged infertile in half the cases, and in 10% the cause is either shared or unknown.

But why has infertility become so prevalent in recent years? Several factors account for the increase.

Maternal age. The social changes and economic pressures of the last decade have caused a large number of couples to delay parenthood. This trend may be beneficial as a move toward parenting from a more secure emotional and financial base . . . but for many women it also diminishes their chances of conceiving. Women reach peak fertility in their early 20's. From the mid-30's on, their reproductive potential gradually diminishes.


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