If you are very keen in starting a family, the news of infertility can be a source of stress for you and your partner.
It is important that you keep an open mind and look for appropriate treatment. There are many ways to start a family. You can fulfill your dream by looking for an alternative.
Signs and symptoms of infertility are often related to other underlying conditions, according to a study in the United States.
For example, 10 to 15 percent of trusted sources of untreated chlamydia cases will lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID leads to a blockage of the fallopian tubes, which prevents fertilization.
Firstly, you should know about infertility, what is causing it and what are the possible treatments.
What is Infertility?
Infertility is not being able to get pregnant because of some problems in the reproductive system. For women younger than 35 years of age, the period of trying is one year and six months for older than 35 years.
It might be the case that women who get pregnant but cannot sustain pregnancy are also related to infertility.
This means that either partner is not able to play their part in conception without using birth control.
Even though the effects of infertility are most common in women by not being pregnant, infertility can be because of both men and women.
Infertility can be because of problems in any part of the reproductive system. This article will tell you about different causes of infertility in both men and women and their treatments.
Working of Male and Female Reproductive System
Semen and sperms are most important for the proper conception of egg and sperm in a female’s body. Semen is a milky fluid from the sex glands of the male reproductive system.
This liquid transports sperms for the fertilization of eggs or eggs (in the case of dizygotic twins). The sperms are produced in testicles. During ejaculation in sex, sperms travel with semen towards the female body for fertilization.
The female reproductive system consists of ovaries that produce an egg every month. The egg descends the fallopian tubes that are meant to carry it inside the uterus. This is where conception happens
The semen helps carry sperm to the uterus. Moreover, any problems with egg production or traveling down fallopian tubes can be a cause of infertility in women according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Causes of Infertility in Men
If there are problems with the shape and speed of the sperm, infertility issues can arise. If the sperms are slow to travel, the fertilization of the egg will not be possible. There can be the following problems with sperms.
- If the sperm count is low during ejaculation, it can be a reason for infertility. This condition is called oligospermia. The sperm count should be more than 15 million sperms per milliliter of semen. Low sperm count means there is a low chance of fertility as there is already a low probability of fertilization in sperms i.e. 1 out of millions of sperms is able to fertilize the egg.
- If the sperms have defects in their heads and tails like misshapen heads or double tail etc. This affects the ability of sperms to swim and compete with normally shaped sperms which are faster and more likely to fertilize the egg.
- If the sperms have low mobility, they will not be able to swim properly and with the required sped to reach the gg to fertilize it first.
Along with sperms, semen is also important. Sometimes its inability to hold and carry sperm effectively results in infertility.
Overheated testicles due to wearing tight clothes, undescended testicles, using hot tubs or working hot environment may also be the reason for semen being unable to carry sperms properly.
Varicoceles can also cause overheating affecting sperm production. It is a condition where veins in testicles are large which causes them to overheat.
If the reproductive systems have blocks like ducts crucial in ejaculation, it can affect the ejaculation process.
There are other external causes that contribute to problems in reproduction.
- Trauma and stress can affect sperm production.
- Excessive use of alcohol, smoking, drugs and steroids can mess up the production of sperms.
- Medical conditions like cancer or infections can also cause these problems. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can also negatively impact the ability to produce sperms.
- Genetic disorders including problems with the Y chromosome can cause low or no sperm production in testicles.
- Certain medical conditions varicoceles, diabetes, hypospadias, mumps, cystic fibrosis and autoimmune disorders can cause low fertility or infertility. Hypospadias refers to the abnormal placement of the urethral opening that makes it harder for sperms to enter the female cervix. Mumps also affects sperm production if happens after puberty.
- Use of certain medications can affect sperm production like sulfasalazine, acetaminophen etc.
- Hormonal imbalance or imbalance in the menstrual cycle can also affect proper production of sperm and semen. Malfunctioning pituitary glands can cause abnormal testicular function interfering with the production of sperms.
- Exposure to an excess of testosterone or estrogen can also cause problems.
- Obesity can lower the chances of conception.
- Age can also be a reason for decreasing fertility with time.
Causes of Infertility in Women
There are a few medical conditions that can cause infertility in women. They are mostly related to women’s reproductive system.
It is important that a woman’s body produces a normal egg that is able to be fertilized at the right time.
There are disorders that can affect the normal production and release of eggs from the ovary. This is also shown in the irregularity of the menstrual cycle. The pituitary gland regulates the hormones in the body of a female and any irregularity can cause problems in the menstrual cycle.
One such disorder is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) where ovaries develop small collections of fluid. The periods become irregular as the release of an egg becomes irregular.
This also affects reproduction as the irregularity of the release of the egg affects the chances of becoming pregnant.
In case of premature ovarian failure, the ovaries stop functioning normally and do not release eggs. In some cases, the eggs produced are damaged and are not able to sustain a pregnancy. It also has higher chances of causing genetic defects.
Medical conditions like AIDS, cancer, thyroid problems, and hyperprolactinemia can also cause problems in pregnancy and conception. Doctors do not recommend going through with pregnancy in cases of cancer and AIDS.
Problems with Uterus
Problems with fallopian tubes and uterus can make it hard for the egg to descend and ultimately causes problems in conception.
Complications in the uterine lining caused by endometriosis can hamper your chances of conception. Tumors in uterine walls can create problems in implantation according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some conditions may block the fallopian tube disrupting the process of reproduction.
Other Risk Factors of Infertility
Women are at higher risk for developing complications in conception. These are:
- Excessive consumption of smoking and tobacco products and alcohol can cause problems in conception.
- Obesity can increase risk of infertility and complicate the process of pregnancy.
- Stress can affect sexual activity and the loss of sexual activity.
- A diet lacking essential components like vitamin B12, zinc and folic acid can put a pregnancy at risk. That is why some women are prescribed supplements during pregnancy.
- With growing age, the ability to conceive also starts dropping and it becomes more and more difficult to get pregnant as the women age.
- Eating disorders causing drastic changes in weight and health also can cause fertility problems.
- Sexually transmitted diseases can damage parts in the reproductive system like fallopian tubes affecting egg production.
When Should I See the Doctor?
It is important that you try to conceive for a year. If unsuccessful, you should try and see the doctors to start treatments that might help you overcome these problems and help you conceive.
Women over 35 years of age should try for at least six months. It does not mean that you cannot see your doctor take help in knowing the right ways that might help you in conception.
Moreover, you should see your doctor soon to get the treatment for these conditions, so that you have more chances of getting pregnant.
Male partners should also get tested to find out if they have any problems contributing to infertility. In case of trauma, hernia surgery, chemotherapy etc. you are better off getting a professional opinion before starting to try.
Diagnosis of Infertility
An infertility diagnosis can be different for men and women. Doctors can recommend multiple tests to understand the exact reasons for infertility as there are multiple causes for it.
Tests for men
When you see a professional, a number of tests are done to figure out the cause. A few of the tests are named as follows:
- Your doctor might ask you to deposit a sample of your semen. Your semen is tested to find out any abnormalities. You might also be tested for evaluating the quality of sperms
- Hormone levels through a blood test.
- Imaging specifically MRI scans to figure out any problems in your reproductive system.
- Genetic testing to determine whether there’s a genetic defect causing infertility.
- A biopsy to identify abnormalities contributing to infertility.
Tests for women
Your doctor might recommend the following tests:
- Imaging tests to figure out what problems are responsible for infertility. Pelvic ultrasound is done to see details important for understanding your reproductive system.
- A blood test measures hormone levels to determine what stage of ovulation you are on and if these hormone levels are appropriate to sustain a pregnancy.
- Hysterosalpingography to understand the condition of your uterus and fallopian tubes. It also shows any blockages or other problems causing infertility.
The infertility treatment that you get depends upon the cause of infertility. Based on that other factors ate involved like what your preference is and what is suitable for you depending on your age.
In cases where spontaneous pregnancy doesn’t happen, couples can often still achieve a pregnancy through the use of assisted reproductive technology. Infertility treatment may involve significant financial, physical, psychological, and time commitments.
In the case of men, your doctor can recommend certain treatments that depend on the causes of infertility.
There are certain factors that can contribute to infertility like substances like alcohol, cigarettes, etc. That you should stop consuming.
It also includes stopping medications that might be causing the problem and employing strategies to improve intercourse and chances of pregnancy. Moreover, adopting an active lifestyle and doing exercise can also help.
Certain medications can improve problems like sperm production and sperm count to improve fertility.
Use of surgery for any blockage in vas deferens or problems like varicoceles.
Different types of treatment depend on the cause to achieve pregnancy in women.
Having a balanced diet, not consuming harmful substances, and doing exercise can help.
Your doctor will recommend surgery for Uterine problems such as endometrial polyps, a uterine septum, endometriosis, and fibroids.
Fertility drugs can be used to induce or regulate ovulation. Your doctor should be able to prescribe those drugs based on the condition of your body.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
During IUI, healthy sperm are placed directly in the uterus around the time the ovary releases one or more eggs for fertilization. Depending on the reasons for infertility, the timing of IUI can be coordinated with your normal cycle or with fertility medications.
Assisted Reproductive Technology
This procedure includes medical procedures to address infertility. This involves Vitro fertilization, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, cryopreservation.
There are ways through which you can achieve your desire of being parent. If these treatments do not work, you can opt for methods like IVF to counter infertility. It is an expensive procedure so if it is not for you, the option of adopting is always there.