Getting Help for Infertility

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In the United States, 10-15% of all couples are diagnosed as infertile, that is, they are unable to conceive after a year of trying. In about 20% of these cases, the infertility is unexplained; the others involve medical causes evenly divided between women and men. Generally, women's infertility involves ovulation, blocked fallopian tubes, or endometriosis, while men's has to do with sperm quality or production. For both men and women, infertility can exact a profound emotional toll.

In the newly-released Six Steps to Increased Fertility, Harvard researchers report that infertile women usually describe not being able to have a baby as a crisis worse than divorce or the death of a parent, and that their depression approaches that of women with cancer or heart disease. So it's no wonder that many couples are willing to try assisted reproductive strategies involving thousands of dollars, powerful drugs, and invasive procedures. For decades, infertility research has stressed these medically- and technologically-based solutions. But years of research into lifestyle factors suggest that taking a series of simpler steps could very well result in a successful pregnancy.

Six Steps to Increased Fertility, written by Harvard Medical School's Robert L. Barbieri, M.D., Alice D. Domar, Ph.D, and Kevin R. Loughlin, M.D, outlines a graduated self-help program for couples struggling with infertility. The book provides data on the effects of lifestyle factors such as weight, exercise, and nutrition, and it addresses medical treatments for both men and women. But what sets the book apart is its emphasis on behavioral medicine in treating infertility, as exemplified by the successful program of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The book also includes a medical glossary and an extensive list of resources and organizations.

For Help With Infertility
Robert L. Barbieri, M.D., Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., and Kevin R. Loughlin, M.D. Six Steps to Increased Fertility. Simon & Schuster, 2000.
RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, www.resolve.org.
American Society for Reproductive Medicine, www.asrm.org.

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