November 10, 2023

The holidays can be a difficult time for couples who are having trouble conceiving a baby. Get-togethers filled with little ones, seeing pregnant friends and family members, even commercials and holiday specials can make couples feel sad or disheartened.

Brittany Arbuckle APRN, CNP, WHNP

Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN)

Then there are the questions by well-meaning family members. “When are you going to have kids?” This question can cause a lot of stress in couples actively trying to conceive or not. My best advice is not to ask this question whether you know people who are trying to have a baby or not. Remember, we don’t know completely what is going on with another couple.

In the United States, among married women aged 15 to 49 years with no prior births, about 1 in 5 (19%) are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying. So, infertility is more common than people realize. When couples are going though monthly disappointments, they may not wish to discuss this even with their close family and friends.

There is hope. There are options and treatments for couples who are having trouble conceiving a baby.

The first thing all couples can do if they are planning on having a baby is to work on lifestyle factors that promote a healthy pregnancy. Quitting smoking, vaping and chewing, decreasing alcohol consumption and maintaining a healthy weight are all things that can help boost fertility and support a healthy pregnancy. Eating a healthy diet is good for both men and women. For women trying to get pregnant, a prenatal vitamin, which includes folic acid and vitamin B12, is recommended.  

Couples may believe they cannot seek fertility services until they have been trying for a year. That’s not true. Many women are advised to come in sooner. Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you are over the age of 35 and have been trying to conceive without success for 6 months. We also want to see you sooner if you have some red flags for fertility challenges like irregular periods or no positives on ovulation test kits.  

There are several tests that are part of a fertility evaluation. With baseline ultrasounds, we evaluate the ovaries, uterus and uterine lining. To better understand the cause of infertility, an X-ray study can be done to check for blockage—or patency (openness)—in the fallopian tubes.

Like women, men also experience fertility problems. Your partner will need to be evaluated for male infertility. When beginning fertility services, couples are encouraged to make the first appointment together.

Once we understand the cause of infertility, we can create a personalized treatment plan. Your treatment plan may include a combination of oral medications to stimulate egg growth and injections to induce ovulation. Next steps to consider may be insemination or in vitro fertilization.  

The fertility journey can be emotional and filled with many ups and downs. Common reactions are grief, depression, anger, frustration and loss of self-confidence. After these initial feelings pass, couples may feel anxious, depressed or alone. These emotions are understandable.

As a women’s health nurse practitioner, please know we are here to listen, offer compassion and help you manage these emotions. We may also refer you to a mental health professional. You are not alone.

Learn more about Mankato Clinic Fertility Services.