What is Infertility?

Infertility refers to the inability to conceive despite having regular unprotected sex for at least a year. It is a condition that may result from an issue with either your partner or you or a combination of various factors that often interfere with pregnancy. Most women older than 35 years of age, who have not conceived despite trying for 6-months or those who do not have regular menstrual cycles must consider visiting an infertility specialist.

What Causes Infertility?

Infertility causes vary in both, men and women and are usually investigated by performing certain fertility tests.

The Causes of Infertility in Women are:

  • Ovulation Disorders: This is one of the most common causes of infertility in women. Ovulation refers to the monthly release of an egg. However, in some cases, a woman never releases eggs. This may be due to various disorders such as:
    • Premature ovarian failure
    • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
    • Hyperprolactinemia
    • Poor egg quality
    • Overactive thyroid gland
    • Underactive thyroid gland
    • Other chronic conditions such as cancer or AIDS.
  • Problems in the Fallopian Tubes:The fallopian tubes are the pathway where the egg travels from the ovary, reaching the uterus where the egg grows. If something is abnormal or wrong in the uterus or the fallopian tubes, a woman may not be able to conceive. This may be due to various factors such as:
    • Surgery
    • Submucosal fibroids
    • Endometriosis
    • Previous sterilisation treatments
  • Medications: Some drugs too, can affect the fertility in a woman causing infertility problems. They include:
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy: Especially, if the radiation is aimed near a woman’s reproductive organs.
  • Illegal Drugs: Drugs such as marijuana or cocaine may cause fertility problems.

The Causes of Infertility in Men are:

  • Semen: It is the milky fluid that is released from a man’s penis during orgasm and consists of fluid and sperm. While the semen comes from the seminal vesicle, prostate gland and other sex glands, the sperm is produced in the testicles. When a man ejaculates during orgasm, it is this seminal fluid helps transport the sperm. Thus, making it an important factor. Semen must be of the right shape and able to move or travel rapidly towards the egg. If the sperm’s morphology and motility are wrong, it is less likely to reach the egg and fertilise it. Abnormal semen is one of the primary causes of infertility in men, and in most cases, doctors never know the exact cause. However, the following semen problems are highly possible:
    • No Sperm: When a man ejaculates, there may be no sperm present in his semen.
    • Low Sperm Count: This is referred to a lower number of sperm, as compared to other men.
    • Low Sperm Mobility: This condition is referred to the inability of the sperm to swim as it should.
    • Abnormal Sperm: This is when the sperm has an unusual shape. Thus, making it harder to move and fertilise the egg.
  • Causes of An Abnormal Semen:
    Here below are a few causes of an abnormal semen that could result in infertility in men.
    • Testicular infection
    • Testicular surgery
    • Testicular cancer
    • Overheating of the testicles due to frequent saunas and hot baths or hot tubs
    • Ejaculation disorders
    • Varicose Veins in the scrotum that may cause the sperm to overheat
    • Undescended testicle
    • Hypogonadism- a testosterone deficiency that can result in a disorder of the testicles
    • Mumps
    • Genetic abnormality
    • Cystic fibroids
    • Hypospadias- where the urethral opening is on the underside of the penis and not at its tip
    • Radiotherapy
    • Medications
    • Illegal drugs
    • Other diseases such as anaemia, diabetes or thyroid disease.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Infertility?

The primary symptom of infertility is when you are unable to conceive. Besides, there may be no other obvious symptoms. However, sometimes, an infertile woman may have irregular or absent menstrual cycles. In few cases, an infertile man may have some signs of hormonal problems such as sexual functions or changes in hair growth.

What are the treatments for Infertility?

Infertility can be treated with medication, surgery, assisted reproductive technology or intra-uterine insemination and several times these treatments are combined. However, doctors recommend an infertility treatment depending on:

  • What is causing the infertility
  • How long you have been infertile
  • The age of your partner and you
  • Personal preferences

How Can You Prevent Infertility?

While not all infertility problems are preventable, there are some actions that you can take to avoid the risk of getting infertile.

Preventing infertility in men:

  • Avoid the consumption of drugs and alcohol
  • Have safe sex
  • Be aware of your everyday exposure to certain environmental toxins
  • Monitor your diet and exercise

Preventing infertility in women:

  • Avoid the consumption of drugs and alcohol
  • Try to get pregnant while you are young
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Be safe in your sexual lifestyle