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Infertility

HOW IS INFERTILITY DEFINED?

For couples under the age of 35, infertility is defined as the inability to conceive or carry a baby to term after having unprotected sexual relations for one year.  For those over the age of 35, an infertility diagnosis is made if conception does not occur within 6 months of attempting pregnancy. 

WHO IS AFFECTED BY INFERTILITY?

In the United States, the disease of infertility is on the rise. 1 in 8 couples will be diagnosed with infertility.

• Statistically, approximately 10 - 15% of the workforce (ages 18 - 45) is struggling with infertility.

•  Infertility knows no bounds and impacts individuals from all socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds and lines.

Infertility is a growing problem not just in the United States, but around the world.  The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the medical disease of infertility and its growing impact across the world. According to the World Health Organization, worldwide - 1 in 4 couples are struggling with infertility.  To learn more, about the growing problem of infertility around the world, click here.

INFERTILITY'S IMPACT

  • Infertility is a major life crisis for 1 in 8 couples in the United States. For the women and men fighting the disease of infertility, the infertility experience involves many hidden losses, not only for the couple as individuals, but also for their loved ones and society as a whole, including*:

Loss of the pregnancy and the birth experience;

Loss of a genetic legacy and loss of future contributing citizens to the next generation;

Loss of the parenting experience;

Loss of a grandparent relationship;

Low feelings of self-worth;

Loss of stability in family and personal relationships;

Significant financial loss, as most infertility treatment is not covered by insurance;

Loss of work productivity; and

Loss of a sense of spirituality and sense of hope for the future.

  • Because infertility often involves major personal life issues and decisions, it is often experienced as a private matter and is not easily discussed in public forums by those struggling through this disease.
  • The personal nature of the infertility experience, and the lack of general public education about this disease, contributes to the failure of the public, politicians, healthcare professionals and the media to recognize this as a significant medical issue or to understand the substantial emotional and physical challenges that this disease presents.   This causes a lack of sound knowledge and available resources. 

 *RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association

 INFERTILITY DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT

Infertility is a medical disease.

•  Approximately 33% of infertility is attributed to to male factors; 33% to female factors;  10% to a combined male and female reproductive problem; and, 24% of infertility is medically unexplained.

There are several medical interventions available to treat infertility.  Some of these treatments can be obtained under the care of a Gynecologist, however, most require treatment by a specialist in the field of Reproductive Endocrinology. 

  • It might be surprising to learn that most insurance plans provide no or very limited coverage for infertility treatment.  To learn more, click here.

 When initial medical treatment is unsuccessful, couples often explore family building alternatives.  Each family building option brings with it weighty decisions, as well as many legal, medical, ethical and relational choices and challenges.

A COMMON MISCONCEPTION ABOUT BUILDING A FAMILY THROUGH ADOPTION

When initial medical treatment of infertility fails, many believe that infertility can be most easily addressed through adoption and it is not uncommon for infertile couples to be advised "why don't you adopt?"  While adoption deserves our continued unwavering support and is a true blessing for many, the reality is that the opportunity to build a family through adoption can be very difficult and challenging.  This realization often delivers yet another emotional blow to those already struggling through the multi-layered, complex challenges created by infertility.

Infant Adoption

Infant adoption is becoming more and more difficult as the number of infants released for adoptive placement has significantly declined*:

• Prior to 1973, approximately 19.3% of children born to a single parent were placed for adoption.

• By 1975, less than 1.7% of children born to a single parent are placed for adoption.

• Between 2002 and 2007, U.S. domestic infant adoptions declined by an additional 19%.

In 2007 there were 18,078 domestic infant adoptions compared to 22,291 placements in 2002. 

(* Source: Adoption Factbook V, National Council for Adoption, https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/images/stories/Adoption_Factbook_Press_Release_Extended.pdf)

Since 2007, the number of domestic infant adoptions has continued to decline (* Source: Adoption Factbook V, National Council for Adoption), while the annual estimated number of those interested in adopting an infant has grown to 1 million(Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange; http://www.mare.org/ForFamilies/NewtoAdoption/FAQs.aspx)


Intercountry (International) Adoption
Likewise the possibility of adopting internationally is becoming increasingly difficult.

• From 2004 to 2010, the number of international adoptions declined by 51.7% to 11,059.* Most of those adoptive placements required seasoned adoptive parents prepared to parent older children, sibling groups and children impacted by a history of childhood trauma. 

  • In 2012, the number of international adoptions further declined to 8,668 placements.*

(* Source: Adoption Factbook V, National Council for Adoption,https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/images/stories/Adoption_Factbook_Press_Release_Extended.pdf)
 
       Waiting Child Adoption

There are many children in state adoption programs in need of loving families.  Most of these children are older (age 6 - 18), are being placed as a sibling group, and/or may have special attachment or bonding needs. Most will require on-going counseling and support to help them over-come the significant relationship, educational and psychological impact that stems from prior child abuse and neglect. In most cases, these children have had traumatic past experiences that may include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and/or severe neglect. Others may have been drug and/or alcohol exposed. All of these children have experienced the grief and loss of having been separated from their families. (Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange;http://www.mare.org/ForFamilies/NewtoAdoption/FAQs.aspx ) The organizations placing these children for adoption, often prefer that the adopting parents be seasoned parents with extensive experience and/or education about how to meet the multiple needs of a child that has experienced trauma.  However, most infertile couples have no or very limited prior parenting experience and even with much specialized preparation and on-going support, not every infertile couple or individual feels able or ready to begin their parenting journey with a child much beyond the age of infancy.

 As infertility increases, adoption becomes more difficult and medical treatment possibilities expand, more couples are electing to pursue medical family building options.   Currently, approximately 15 to 20% of infertile couples will be advised to consider the medical treatment of In Vitro Fertilization.  Click here to learn more about In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) .