The Department of Veterans Affairs offers VA Infertility Services to qualifying veterans with service-connected fertility problems. Infertility is described on the VA official site as a common problem; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies approximately 12 percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 years old as having “difficulty conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term.”
If you are a veteran who is registered in the VA health care system or are in the process of registering, there are VA infertility services you should know about that can help.
The Definition of Infertility
The National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health (NIH) define infertility as a condition that can affect men and women, described as a “failure to establish a clinical pregnancy” after 12 months of “regular and unprotected sexual intercourse.” Infertility does not have a single cause and may be affected by environmental issues, stress, medical treatment, hereditary traits, disease, injury, and many other causes.
Factors That Can Affect Fertility
NIH reports several factors responsible for “the spontaneous probability” of conception. Those factors include:
- Time of unwanted non-conception
- Age of the female partner
- Any disease-related infertility issues
- The extent of “fertility decline” once the patient has reached specific age ranges (25-30 years of age)
- “Median age at last birth”
Certain disease-related and other medically-related infertility issues include:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Disorders of ciliary function
- Endocrine disrupting chemicals
- Endometrial polyps
- Hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism
- Premature ovarian insufficiency
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Testicular deficiency
- Uterine fibroids
Other Infertility Data
- 20-30% of infertility cases are found in men
- Men contribute up to 50% of cases overall according to NIH
- “Secondary infertility” is said to be one of the most commonly reported types of female infertility worldwide
When To Talk To Your Care Provider About Infertility Issues
The Mayo Clinic official site has good advice about when to discuss infertility with a care provider, stating women should generally talk with a doctor if they have been trying to get pregnant for more than a year.
However, an earlier appointment may be needed in cases where the patient is 35 or older trying to get pregnant for longer than six months, experiences irregular or absent periods, or who have had cancer treatment.
Other reasons to talk to a doctor earlier than “the one-year guideline” include:
- Having very painful periods
- Having past experience with fertility problems
- Receiving a diagnosis of endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease
- Multiple miscarriages
Men should talk to a doctor if they experience:
- Low sperm count
- Other problems with sperm
- Past issues with testicular, prostate or sexual problems
- Cancer treatments
- Small testicles
- Swelling in the scrotum
Department Of Veterans Affairs Infertility Services Can Help Qualified Veterans
Those enrolled in or eligible to enroll in VA health care services have options for VA infertility services. The first step is to be enrolled if the veteran is not already, but once that is accomplished, it may be necessary to make a preliminary appointment with a VA care provider to do an initial examination to determine the cause of the infertility and whether that cause qualifies for further treatment with VA benefits.
Qualifying For VA Infertility Services
Those who qualify for infertility services may be eligible for a wide range of treatment options including genetic counseling, sperm tests, ultrasound procedures, surgery, vasectomy reversal, tubal ligation reversal, and medication.
The VA may also be able to help with procedures that utilize something known as “assisted reproductive technology” including in vitro fertilization, in general, the qualifying criteria includes but is not limited to the following according to the Department of Veterans Affairs:
- The veteran must be legally married
- There must be a service-connected cause of the infertility
- The veteran or spouse must have an intact uterus and at least one functioning ovary or own cryopreserved eggs
- The Veteran or spouse must be able to produce sperm or own cryopreserved sperm
The VA official site advises that the VA benefit covering in vitro fertilization “does not cover surrogacy, donor eggs, donor sperm or donor embryos.”
If a veteran is deemed eligible for assisted reproductive technology, they may be referred to a care provider specializing in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in the veteran’s community or close by. This care provider will develop a treatment plan and be responsible for evaluations and testing.
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