Wishing for the Gift of a Child

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The holiday season is a joyous time for families. There’s something about seeing a child’s eyes light up at the sight of a present or the reaction to the scent of grandma’s cookies fresh out of the oven.

For couples, trying to conceive, it’s the promise of such magical moments that keep the dream of parenthood thriving.

The gift of a child is life-changing. And every person’s journey to parenthood is different. For some, the journey starts unexpectedly. For others, the road is a long one with many twists and turns.

In the United States, approximately 6.7 million women - ages 15 to 44 - experience fertility issues, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And approximately 15 percent of couples are infertile.

What causes so many people to have fertility issues? There’s not a single answer, but a wide range of physical and emotional factors can cause infertility in both women and men.

“When it comes to infertility, there’s about a 50/50 chance the problems are related to either the female or male,” said infertility specialist Robert Slackman, M.D., of Carilion Clinic’s Infertility and Reproductive Endocrinology Clinic.

“Procedures like in vitro fertilization (IVF) aren’t for everyone,” Dr. Slackman said. “So it’s best to discuss all your options with your physician, but Carilion does partner with regional laboratories on IVF treatments, whose success rates are among the best in the country.”

Beyond a person’s genetic make-up, chronic health problems and lifestyle choices can also play a role in infertility. Making certain changes to your everyday life can improve the chances pregnancy.

“I do advise couples to change and improve their lifestyles,” Dr. Slackman said. “Limit the amount of caffeine you have each day, cut back on drinking alcohol, and stop smoking.”

Often times when people think of infertility, they think of advanced, costly procedures, but the truth is there are less invasive, less costly treatments.

“Procedures like in vitro fertilization (IVF) aren’t for everyone,” Dr. Slackman said. “So it’s best to discuss all your options with your physician, but Carilion does partner with regional laboratories on IVF treatments, whose success rates are among the best in the country.”

Start simple. Improving your chances of pregnancy can be a process of elimination. You don’t want to jump into any treatment that could potentially be avoided.

“I tell patients to take this process one step at a time,” Dr. Slackman said. “While we do offer advanced infertility treatments, they are not always a solution.”

No matter what your path to parenthood is, the most important thing to remember is there is help available in our community. Your care provider is on this journey with you, every step of the way.

For more information on Carilion’s Infertility and Reproductive Endocrinology services, visit CarilionClinic.org and search “infertility”.

Laura Markowski is a writer for Carilion Clinic’s marketing communications department. She writes this monthly article on women’s health issues.