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      The science behind the growing infertility problem

      In a special report, Pronews 7 looked at the infertility issues affecting couples in the Panhandle.

      A look at what causes it, and why are we seeing a growing number of couples struggling with it.

      Doctor Robert Kauffman at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is a reproductive medicine and infertility expert. He works strictly with couples who are struggling to conceive a child.

      "We know about 10% to 20% of couples will have difficulties of conceiving some time during their reproductive life," said Dr. Robert Kauffman.

      In fact, according to the American Pregnancy Association, 6.1 million American couples suffer from infertility issues. Why are there so many?

      "Whether or not infertility in the population is more common now than it was say, a generation ago is really not clear. Some of the issues that we're having to deal with are how are increasing obesity rates and there's no question that obesity is a risk factor for infertility," said Dr. Kauffman.

      Dr. Kauffman also says many couples are choosing to wait later in life to have a baby. He says the ideal age for a woman to conceive is between 21 and 24. He's seeing many women who suffer from polycystic ovarian fibrosis, and many who are not ovulating. Often times, a man does factor into the equation.

      "Number one, does the woman ovulate. Secondly, does the male adequately have sperm cells and do they function properly. Thirdly, the sperm and the egg have to get together so we have to do some type of study to see if the uterus and fallopian tubes are normal".

      "What we don't have here in Amarillo, we don't have an Assist Reproductive Technology Program. In other words, we don't do in vitro fertilization here.""But in Amarillo we do have intrauterine insemination, we do have a full androgynous male fertilization lab here at the medical school. We can also do injectable medications for those who have difficulty ovulating".

      Here's the tricky part, most major insurance companies don't cover the medications or the procedures.

      "In Texas for those who have private insurance we see a lot of companies paying for evaluation, but not treatment.Some of the surgery for infertility is covered to where as sometimes its not".

      Then add in those trips out of town and the expense to conceive a child can add up to close to $15,000.But there is good news for couples, Dr. Kauffman says they're hoping to start a support group for struggling parents-to-be. He says it's not only a financial struggle, but an emotional one as well.