It’s a subject that many have experienced but few want to talk about. Infertility affects about one out of every six couples.
Doctors like Jason Yeh at Houston Fertility Institute say there’s not really a catch-all treatment option; it depends on where the issue lies.
“There are four basic pillars of fertility: sperm, uterus, fallopian tubes and eggs,” Yeh said. “The first step is to get information about each of those things. The treatment depends in large part on what we find. If a woman’s fallopian tubes are damaged, nothing is going to work but in vitro fertilization. If everything is normal and they’re still not able to conceive, we call that unexplained infertility. Those couples have a lot of options.”
Yeh, who trained at Duke University and is a Houston native, has been practicing locally for about four years. He acknowledged that it can be an emotional process for some of his patients.
“I try to emphasize that it’s super common,” he said. “One of the best things they can hear from a friend or a psychologist or a nurse or anybody is ‘me too.’”
Infertility is typically diagnosed if a couple has been trying to conceive for more than a year. Over the age of 45 the diagnosis is gauged at six months of trying.
And while things like stress, weight, blood pressure and heart health are factors in a woman’s overall well-being, difficulty in those areas don’t necessarily rule out the ability to have a child.
“Classically people are thinking, ‘How do I get pregnant with my own eggs under the age of 35?’ After that, there’s a steady decline. I see a lot of people over that age and we bring up the topic of egg donors,” Yeh said.
The chances of an uncomplicated healthy pregnancy lessen as a woman gets older, Yeh explained.
“When you see a celebrity – when you see Janet Jackson at age 50 – having babies, those are not her eggs,” he said.
Yeh said he chose to specialize in fertility treatment because of a confluence of good mentors, being a “technology nerd and wanting to help others.
“I never really felt like I belonged in the traditional areas of medicine,” he said. “I was a liberal arts and philosophy major. It’s easy to get depressed and numbed in medical school.”
It’s also common to work with patients who become depressed with their struggle to get pregnant.
“It’s no secret that in many cases this doesn’t work,” he said. “The ups are really high and the downs can be the worst days of your life. Everyone wants to get pregnant with their own eggs in their own body, and you may need to incorporate different ideas of family.”