What is unexplained infertility and how do you deal with it?
If you want to have a baby, and every month you are disappointed by no results, it can be enormously frustrating.
When you are faced with a health condition that is stopping you from living the life that you want, the first thing you look for is answers. But what if there aren’t any?
The most common cause of infertility is ‘Unexplained Infertility’.
If there isn’t a more frustrating diagnosis than this, I don’t know what it is. Sitting in a specialist’s office and being told that your condition has no explanation can be heartbreaking.
We can underestimate how emotionally beneficial it can be to give a health condition a label, and therefore a plan for combatting it.
You have gone through a seemingly never-ending series of tests and examinations, including researching your family medical history, to physical exams, blood tests, hormone tests, scans and more. And at the end of all of that, there is supposed to be an explanation, and with it, a fix.
If there is no explanation, does this mean there is no treatment?
Not really. Why there is no treatment as such, there are a great many things you can do to improve your chances of conceiving.
What is unexplained fertility?
It can be a difficult thing to hear, but a diagnosis of unexplained fertility is actually a better result than some of the more serious results you could be given.
Specialists say that this can be a good prognosis, as there is much that can still be tried.
It just means a bit more investigation and guesswork for you and your doctors. And a bit more of the hard stuff, like perseverance, resilience and patience.
Between 20 and 30 percent of infertility patients will be given the diagnosis of unexplained infertility. But it doesn’t mean that nothing can be done, but means that any of your available options may work.
If your infertility is unexplained, it just means that a test hasn’t been developed that can pinpoint it yet. Some causes of infertility are very subtle, such as poor egg quality.
Unexplained infertility also has a good success rate, more so than some of the more serious or aggressive diagnoses.
Between 30 and 60 percent of women with unexplained fertility will get pregnant after three years of minimal intervention such as tracking your cycle. While just waiting it out can be a hard road to face, this is all that is needed for many couples.
Do you need IVF?
As we said above, having unexplained infertility means that all of the options for fertility treatment are open to you.
Although IVF has the highest success rate, it is the most expensive and intrusive of fertility treatments, so you don’t need to jump in that fast.
Around 30 percent of people with infertility who seek treatment are successful with minimal medical intervention, such as medications and inseminations alone.
Following this, you can then try IVF, which has quite impressive success rates, and can also pinpoint specific reasons for your infertility that previous testing couldn’t pick up.
Through IVF treatment nearly half of the embryo transfers for women under the age of 35resulted in live births.
While that percentage does decrease with age, it’s still reasonably high for women between the ages of 38 and 40, with nearly 30 percent of transfers resulting in live births.
Some things you can do to increase your chances of getting pregnant
If your body would benefit from it, try to diet and exercise.
Adjusting your diet to put your weight more within the healthy weight range can increase your chances of conception, as can adding some gentle regular exercise to your routine. Exercise also has the added benefit of helping your mental health as well.
Increase the amount of fertile foods you are eating and add fertility focused supplements as well. Eat organic, grass-fed meat and dairy, cold water fish, and foods that are high in fibre like whole grains and leafy, colourful vegetables.
Increase your intake of iron and folate, antioxidants and anything that can boost your immune system. You should be trying to build the healthiest you that you possibly can.
A considerable number of women with unexplained fertility, have this as a result of undiagnosed celiac disease.
By removing gluten from their diets, these women have had excellent increases in their rates of conception. Sometimes a simple fix like this is all that is needed.
Try a gluten-free diet (removing wheat, rye and barley) and you might see a change for the better.
Rehydrate your body in better ways, by reducing or giving up alcohol, caffeine and sugary drinks. Switch to lots of fresh water, smoothies that are high in greens, fruit and dairy, and green and herbal teas.
Look into alternative therapies that can assist with reproduction, including acupuncture, naturopathy and reflexology.
Talk to an allergist and see if there is anything in your diet or lifestyle that might be affecting your chances of getting pregnant.
Look after your emotional health
While it can be upsetting and frustrating to get no specific answers when you first seek help for your infertility, being told that nothing major is wrong is a good thing.
It means your options are more open, and your success rates are more likely with some intervention and patience.
Adding anxiety and stress to your current state is not going to help matters.
Although processing that you have no explanation for your failure to conceive can be trying, working through this to a more positive state of mind about things will make you feel better.
Some things that may help you deal with it
Try to regain control of the situation, instead of being led along on the path of the unknown. This internal concept of having control over your own life is a powerful mental health tool.
Although this sounds hard right now, working to reduce your stress can really assist you at this time. Try investigating ways to improve your emotional health such as mindfulness or meditation, yoga, aromatherapy, massage, and other relaxation techniques.
Work to remove negative judgements about this situation, both those that you are having about yourself and any about your partner.
Blame and guilt are not helpful right now, so try to go through the process without adding extra judgements. Again a technique such as mindfulness can be fantastic to help with this, for more information see:
Talk to an infertility counsellor or a regular psychologist about ways to help your motivation, resilience and ability to cope.
Talk to friends about what you are going through. Even if they don’t get it exactly, when you voice your problems and feelings it can help you sort things out and get better perspective.
Talk to people in the same boat as you. If you don’t have friends or family who have faced infertility, look for support groups or online forums for advice and support. Some great resources include:
Do nice things for yourself and distract yourself when possible. Go out to the movies or to a market, do a cooking class or take up a new craft. Consider other projects that will occupy your mind such as planning a holiday or home renovation, landscaping your garden, learning a new language or taking on some professional development to further your career.
If you are facing this as part of a couple, try to connect with your partner as much as possible. Check in with them and encourage them to talk about how they are dealing with all of this. Then go on dates and talk about other things than getting pregnant. Try to regain your intimacy and sexuality as a couple rather than just as a baby-making machine.
Write things down in a journal to help process them, and to get them out of your head. Many people find writing to be incredibly therapeutic, and it also makes a nice keepsake later when you are through to the other side of this time. Some people even publish their writing in blogs or their own books.
If you need to avoid dealing with situations with lots of happy mums and babies, such as family gatherings. Cut yourself a bit of slack and don’t put yourself through unnecessary stress or social events. Feel free to make up an excuse not to go, or if you do go, to not hold anyone’s new baby if you don’t want to. Making up that you have a cold or gastro will always get new mothers moving away from you again.
You can get through this
When you first hear it, being told that you have unexplained infertility can bring up lots of horrible feelings in you. Number one might be a sense of overwhelming hopelessness (or at least that was the one for me).
Allow yourself to feel bad and process that naturally, you don’t have to buck up straight away and get on with it.
But when you look at the information, unexplained fertility can be a good thing to hear. Your chances of getting pregnant are still strong, and your options are plentiful.
You just need to pull from within you the strength and drive to keep trying, and science, nature and a little time will most likely get you there in the end.