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Quiz: How Much Do You About Fertility?

  • Chris Woolston, M.S.
  • Posted March 11, 2013

The journey from conception through pregnancy to childbirth can be so full of twists, turns, and obstacles that it's no surprise many couples have trouble reaching their final destination -- parenthood. According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, about 6 million American couples -- roughly 10 percent -- struggle with infertility at any given time. Fortunately, many "infertile" couples eventually find their way to parenthood. How much do you know about infertility? Take this quick quiz to find out.

1. When a couple struggles to conceive, what is the most likely explanation?

a. The woman has a fertility problem

b. The man has a fertility problem

c. Each is equally likely to have a fertility problem

d. They both have fertility problems

2. According to a study published in the journal Human Reproduction, at what age does a woman's fertility start to decline?

a. Late 20s

b. Early 30s

c. At 35

d. Late 30s

3. Which of these steps can harm the fertility of both women and men?

a. Smoking

b. Stress

c. Being overweight

d. All of the above

4. Which of these conditions can make it difficult for a woman to conceive?

a. Hypertension

b. Endometriosis

c. Food allergies

d. All of the above

5. Abnormalities in the semen are the leading cause of male infertility. Which of these is a sign of abnormal semen?

a. Sperm count is above 20 million per milliliter

b. About 75 percent of the sperm are alive and mobile

c. The pH of the semen is slightly alkaline

d. The sperm are clumping together

6. If a doctor can't find a cause for infertility, a couple has very little chance of conceiving a child.

True

False

7. How long should most couples age 35 and under try to conceive on their own before considering medical help?

a. Three months

b. Six months

c. One year

d. Two years

8. In most cases, couples with fertility problems need to undergo complicated, high-tech procedures such as in vitro fertilization. True or false?

True

False

Answer

1. When a couple struggles to conceive, what is the most likely explanation?

The correct answer is: c. Each is equally likely to have a fertility problem

If a couple has trouble conceiving, a male factor is the reason about 30 percent of the time; a female factor is involved about as often, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. In the rest of the cases, about 10 percent of the time both partners have a fertility problem, and 20 percent of the time the cause is unexplained.

2. According to a study published in the journal Human Reproduction, at what age does a woman's fertility start to decline?

The correct answer is: a. Late 20s

The study found that a woman's fertility starts declining gradually starting in her late 20s. Although the decline in the 20s is probably clinically insignificant, it does become significant by the early 30s. Most women in their late 20s or early 30s can become pregnant fairly easily, but it might take a month or two longer than it would have in their early 20s. Postponing pregnancy until a woman is in her late 30s or her 40s is likely to be trickier, though. According to the Mayo Clinic, age is the biggest predictor of fertility--the older a woman is, the harder it will be to conceive. Fertility takes a sharp decline by age 37 and over the age of 45, the odds of getting pregnancy using your own eggs is less than 1 percent (although women undergoing fertility treatments may be able to get pregnant using donor eggs).However, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more women in their 40s are having children than ever before.

3. Which of these steps can harm the fertility of both women and men?

The correct answer is: d. All of the above

Smoking, stress, and extra weight can hamper sperm production or make sperm less mobile. All of these factors can make it difficult for a woman to conceive. The connection between stress and female infertility deserves special mention as well. However, a 2010 study in Fertility and Sterility suggested that healthy women trying to get pregnant may have lower odds of doing so in any month if they are stressed. The work reported the first association between high levels of a biological market for stress and reduced odds that a women would conceive during the days in her monthly cycle when she was fertile. The researchers recommended that couples trying to conceive add relaxation exercise to their list of to-dos.

In addition, about 5 percent of women have a stress-related condition that causes wildly irregular periods or stops periods altogether. The condition is called functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA). A study at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that stress-reduction techniques can help put these women back on schedule, and some experts recommend relaxation techniques for all couples trying to conceive.

4. Which of these conditions can make it difficult for a woman to conceive?

The correct answer is: b. Endometriosis

Other common causes of female infertility include irregular periods, tubal blockages, pelvic inflammatory disease, thyroid problems, and hormone imbalances. In many cases, these obstacles can be successfully treated and fertility can be restored. Hypertension itself doesn't seem to affect fertility, though it can cause problems during pregnancy. Food allergies aren't known to affect fertility either.

5. Abnormalities in the semen are the leading cause of male infertility. Which of these is a sign of abnormal semen?

The correct answer is: a. Sperm count is above 20 million per milliliter

Clumping sperm aren't likely to swim up and find the awaiting egg. Normal sperm counts range from 20 million to 100 million per milliliter of semen (which should be slightly alkaline), and at least 50 percent of the sperm should be alive and moving forward. At least 30 percent of the sperm should be a normal shape, too. If a semen test finds abnormalities, don't despair -- there are plenty of treatment options available.

6. If a doctor can't find a cause for infertility, a couple has very little chance of conceiving a child.

The correct is: False

According to the Mayo Clinic, the pregnancy rate for these couples is among the highest.

7. How long should most couples age 35 and under try to conceive on their own before considering medical help?

The correct answer is: c. One year

In general, if you've been trying to conceive for a year without luck, you should look for some professional help. Some couples, however, shouldn't wait that long -- women over 35 should seek a medical opinion if they haven't conceived after six months of trying. For a woman 38 to 40 and over, it's best to see a doctor for evaluation almost immediately after trying and not succeeding in getting pregnant. And when either partner has a condition that could hamper fertility, it's best to consult a doctor from the outset. In women, these conditions include a history of irregular periods, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, or polycystic ovarian disorder. In men, a history of undescended testicles, as well as a previous groin injury, is a red flag.

8. In most cases, couples with fertility problems need to undergo complicated, high-tech procedures such as in vitro fertilization. True or false?

The correct answer is: False

According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, 85 percent to 90 percent of all cases of infertility can be treated with fertility drugs or other "conventional" medical therapies. If such treatments aren't enough, in vitro fertilization (fertilizing eggs outside the body and then implanting into the uterus) or other assisted reproductive technologies can be highly effective. Talk to your doctor and carefully research all of your options. And try not to get too discouraged most couples with fertility problems have moments of frustration and despair. Eventually, most of them also have babies.

-- Chris Woolston, MS, is a health and medical writer with a master's degree in biology. He was a staff writer at Hippocrates, a magazine for physicians. He has also covered science issues for Time Inc. Health, WebMD, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. His reporting on occupational health earned him an award from the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists.

References

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Male infertility.

Dunson D et al. Changes with age in the level and duration of fertility in the menstrual cycle. Human Reproduction. 17(5) 1399-1403.

Speroff, Leon, et al. Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Stress, infertility linked in study by Magee-Women's Research Institute.

American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Fact sheet: Stress and infertility.

Lab Tests Online: Semen test http://www.labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/semen/test.html

Fertilitext: Hypertension http://www.fertilitext.org/p2_doctor/Hypertension.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infertility. November 2005. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/fertile.htm

American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Frequently Asked Questions About Infertility. http://www.asrm.org/Patients/faqs.html

Mayo Clinic. Infertility. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/infertility/DS00310

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