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Infertility: Let's Talk About It

By Katie Sekpe, MD September 13, 2021 Posted in: Women's Health

When the topic is infertility, people tend to speak in hushed tones – or they don’t speak about it at all. As a result, infertility can be an isolating experience – and it doesn’t have to be. This year’s National Infertility Awareness Week back in April got people talking with the hashtag #WhatIWantYouToKnow.

What to Know About Infertility

I’d like to join in by telling you what I want you to know. First of all, if you are struggling with infertility you are not alone. Anyone can face challenges starting a family, regardless of their race or economic status. Research shows, of married women in the U.S. ages 15 to 44:

  • 6% are unable to get pregnant after a year of trying.
  • 12% have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.
  • Infertility is generally defined as the inability to achieve pregnancy after more than a year of trying, though some providers evaluate and treat.
  • Women age 35 and over after six months.


A common misconception is that infertility is just about women. In 35% of couples with infertility, a male factor is identified along with a female factor. There are many causes, including:

  • Genetic abnormalities
  • Acute and chronic diseases
  • Exposure to certain environmental toxins
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Anatomic abnormalities

Treatment for Infertility

Infertility rates are trending upward and several factors may be influencing this rise, including people trying to get pregnant later in life, obesity and overall poor health. The good news is treatments have improved over the past few decades, and here at CHI Health there are many options that can help. These include medicine, surgery, and other interventions that respect the dignity of the human person in accord with Catholic teaching that can assist couples as they work with their providers to address fertility challenges.

Advances in science and research mean there’s a lot of ways we can help couples. While it’s true that some treatments can be a financial burden, some insurance companies are starting to include coverage for some aspects of infertility care. If you haven’t checked recently, it’s worthwhile to check again with your insurance provider so that you know more about your options.

Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL)

Related to infertility, but a medical issue of its own, is recurrent pregnancy loss. This is defined by two or more pregnancies which end before 20 weeks. It might surprise you that spontaneous pregnancy loss is common. Approximately 15% of all clinically recognized pregnancies result in pregnancy failure, and only 30% of all conceptions result in a live birth.

These numbers probably don’t mean much when it happens to you. Pregnancy loss is physically and emotionally difficult for couples. I want you to know that there is help and support.

Support for Infertility

If you’re struggling with infertility or recurrent pregnancy loss, start with your own support system of health care providers, family and friends, but don’t stop there. Reach out to support groups in your area. You can find information through these local resources:

How to Help Those Dealing with Infertility

If you’re trying to be supportive to someone in your life who is struggling with infertility, it can be hard to know what to say, and what not to say. Sometimes you just need to be present. Things you can say include:

  • "I’m sorry, that must be really difficult."
  • "What are your biggest struggles right now?"
  • "How can I support you through this?"

Stop yourself from sharing a negative infertility experience or horror story, or things you’ve read on the Internet that may or may not be true. Most of all, know that there’s hope. Reproductive Endocrinology Infertility specialists continue to advance our knowledge of infertility and the field is growing all the time with new treatments and research. You don’t have to face it alone. Talk to your provider, be open with your loved ones and tap into those support groups.

Reach out to a CHI Health Women's Health provider if you have more questions.

Katie Sekpe, MD
Katie Sekpe, MD

Katie Sekpe, MD is a Women's Health provider at CHI Health.

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