Everything You Need To Know About Infertility
What Is Infertility?
Infertility refers to a condition in which a couple is unable to conceive even after a year-long trying of unprotected sexual intercourse.
When a woman gets pregnant but keeps having stillbirths or miscarriages, it is also referred to as infertility.
Infertility can be of two types:
- Primary Infertility- When a woman is not able to get pregnant at least after a year of regular unprotected sex.
- Secondary Infertility- A woman who was formerly able to get pregnant is now unable to conceive.
Important facts And Stats
- Infertility can affect both men and women equally.
- Most of the infertile couples have multiple factors contributing to infertility.
- In about 40% of the infertile couples, men are responsible for the condition than females.
- About 12% of all infertility cases arise due to improper weight management of females.
- 13% of female infertility results from excessive smoking.
- Smoking increases the risk of infertility and miscarriages.
- 85-90% of all infertility cases are treated either with medications or surgery
What Causes Infertility?
There may be varied causes of infertility in men and women. Let us discuss them -
Causes In Men
Infertility causes in men may include the following factors:
- Low Sperm Count: Ejaculating lowers sperm count than usual can lead to infertility problems in men. Now, what is a low sperm count? Well, a sperm count fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen is considered lower. The condition is known as oligospermia.
- Poor Sperm Motility: It is a condition in which less than 32% of the sperms can move around freely to meet the eggs.
- Undue Exposure To Some Environmental Factors: Frequent exposure to certain environmental pollutants such as chemicals, radiation, pesticides can elevate the risk for fertility-related issues.
Cigarette smoking, alcohol, marijuana, anabolic steroids, and drugs to treat high blood pressure, depression, bacterial infections, etc. can also impact fertility.
Recurrent exposure to heat can raise your body’s temperature and give rise to decreased sperm production.
- Damage Associated With Cancer And Its Treatment: Certain treatments for cancer like chemotherapy or radiation therapy can sometimes severely damage sperm production.
Causes In Women
Infertility causes in women include
Cervical Or Uterine Abnormalities
- Ovulation Disorders: It is known to be one of the most common reasons for female infertility. Ovulation refers to a condition of the monthly release of an egg. Ovulation disorders happen when the eggs either never release or release rarely in some cycles.
Ovulation disorders can occur due to the following:
- Premature ovarian failure
- Poor egg quality
- Thyroid issues
- Chronic conditions like cancer or AIDS
- High prolactin levels
- Fallopian Tube Obstruction: In this, the eggs are unable to travel from the ovary to the womb or uterus. When the eggs cannot move, conceiving becomes very difficult.
- Early Menopause: When the uterus stops functioning, and menstruation stops before the age of 40 years. Certain genetic conditions and immune system disorders can bring about early menopause.
- Endometriosis: When an endometrial tissue develops exterior to the uterus, it affects the functioning of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.
- Cancer And Its Treatment: Cancer of the reproductive organs can adversely affect female infertility. The common underlying causes include chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
- Certain Medications: Some medications can increase the risk of female infertility. It includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and illegal drugs (like cocaine and marijuana), and drugs for treating high cholesterol levels.
What Are The Symptoms Of Infertility?
The most prominent symptom of infertility is the inability to become pregnant. Other signs are not very common and are often difficult to recognize.
The underlying cause of your condition also affects the symptoms of infertility. Many health disorders reduce the chances of pregnancy, and sometimes we are unable to detect the potential reason.
Have a look at some common warning signs and symptoms of infertility in men and women -
Signs In Women
- No periods
- Irregular periods
- Abnormal periods
- Painful periods
When hormonal changes are the cause of infertility, you will experience the following symptoms:
- Weight gain
- Loss or thinning of hair
- Acne problems
- Changes in desire and sexual intercourse
- Dark-colored hair growth on chin, lips, and chest
- Pain during sex
Signs In Men
- Transformations in sexual desire
- Small, firm testicles
- Transformations in hair growth
- Issues relating to erection or ejaculation
- Swelling, pain, or formation of lumps on testicles
Who Is A Risk For Infertility?
Following factors increase the risks for infertility in men and women:
- Age: Studies suggest that infertility in women drops gradually in the mid-’30s, while drops swiftly after attaining 37 years of age. It happens mainly due to deterioration in the quality and amount of eggs released. Men with ages 40 years or more are less fertile in comparison with those of the younger group of men.
- Being Underweight: Women who are underweight lies at a high risk of developing infertility. So. have a healthy and balanced diet. Starving yourself on a restricted diet can improve your chances of infertility.
- Being Overweight: People who are overweight or lead an inactive lifestyle are at significant risk for fertility. Sperm count may also get impacted in men with infertility.
- Excessive Alcohol Intake: Women should altogether avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Men can drink moderately at times, but excessive consumption should strictly be avoided.
- Tobacco Consumption: Smoking tobacco by either of the partner can lower the chances of pregnancy. Not only this, smoking can reduce the effectiveness of fertility medications.
Women who smoke have an increased risk of miscarriages than others. Smoking can also elevate the risk of low sperm count and erectile dysfunction in men.
How To Prevent Infertility?
Following are the tips you can consider to prevent fertility-related complications to some extent:
- Get Diagnosed For Sexually Transmitted Disorders: You must be comprehended about the sexually transmitted disorders and their influence on your capability to conceive.
Some of the most popular STDs include gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, PID(Pelvic Inflammatory Disease), and HPV(Human Papillomavirus). Recent surveys suggest that
PID accounts for about one million cases in women in the United States of America. PID causes permanent damage to the reproductive tract and impacts the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes.
- Stop Smoking: Smoking is the leading cause of many severe disorders, including infertility. If you are an active smoker, it's high time you should stop smoking now. Taking second-hand smoke can also be equally harmful and give rise to infertility.
- Avoid Exposure To Environmental Toxins: When you are pregnant or even trying to be, you should avoid frequent exposure to environmental toxins.
High levels of mercury often lead to miscarriage, autism, and cancer. So, avoid some fish(shark, tilefish, swordfish, mackerel, etc.) containing adequate amounts of mercury to prevent the risk. You can have no more than 12 ounces of fish weekly. Fish containing low levels of mercury include salmon, catfish, shrimp, canned tuna, etc.
Avoid exposure to BPA(Bisphenol A) as it can increase the development of prostate cancer and breast cancer cells. BPA is found in a large number of products, including dental sealants, canned-food products, and linings of milk containers.
Another chemical called phthalates can cause genital imperfections to boys when exposed in the womb.
- Have A Healthy Diet: Obesity accounts for almost 6% of all infertility cases. So, whenever you take medical assistance, make sure to monitor the bodyweight of you and your partner. Having a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy body weight can help women attain pregnancy.
- Practice Safe Sex: Practicing safe sex can decrease the chances of getting affected with a sexually transmitted infection, and thus prevent infertility issues.
- Be Your Guardian: Spend some time with your partner and expand your knowledge on the best tips for the prevention of infertility. If you have any queries, consult your healthcare specialist and get it solved quickly. You need to safeguard your fertility by taking these preventive measures.
How Is Infertility Diagnosed?
Most couples seek medical aid when they are not able to conceive even after having several unprotected sex drives.
If a woman is over 35 years, you can consult the doctor without waiting to pass a year. The fertility tests take time, and there is a gradual decline in female fertility as she ages.
Infertility Tests For Men
- Blood Test: The doctor takes a small sample of blood and analyzes it for the levels of testosterone and other hormones.
- Semen Test: It tests for sperm count, color, quality, motility, presence of infection, and blood in the sample.
- Chlamydia Test: As we have discussed in the previous section, chlamydia affects fertility. Several antibiotics are available to treat the condition that the doctor will recommend if you have chlamydia.
- Ultrasound: This test can check for the issues relating to retrograde ejaculation or ejaculatory duct obstruction.
Infertility Tests For Women
- Blood Test: The blood test determines the level of different hormones in the body, and if a woman is appropriately ovulating.
- Laparoscopy: It is a surgical procedure in which the doctor analyzes within the abdomen. The structure of the reproductive organs like the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes, are analyzed. It can unveil the signs of scarring, blockages, abnormalities of the fallopian tube, and uterus.
- Hysterosalpingography: The doctor injects a fluid into the patient’s uterus, and taken x-rays are obtained to depict the transversal of fluid into the fallopian tubes and out of the womb. In case of any obstruction, the doctor recommends for surgery.
Some other tests done for the diagnosis of infertility in women are as follows:
- Genetic Test: It checks whether genetic mutations are the cause of your infertility.
- Pelvic Ultrasound: The detailed images of ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes are taken and analyzed for the issue.
- Chlamydia test: Lets you know if there is a need for taking antibiotics.
- Ovarian Reserve Test: It determines the effectiveness of eggs after ovulation.
- Thyroid Function Test: It is crucial as it impacts the hormonal imbalance.
How Is Infertility Treated?
The most appropriate treatment for your infertility depends upon the following factors:
The cause of infertility
The time for which you have been infertile
The age of you and your partner
Treatment For Men
- Lifestyle Changes: The changes include abstaining from certain medications, environmental toxins, improving the timing and frequency of sexual intercourse, and similar factors.
- Medications: Certain medications can raise your sperm count and the chances for achieving a successful pregnancy. Utilizing those medications can improve the quality and production of sperm.
- Sperm Retrieval: When there’s an issue with ejaculation or when sperm is not present in the ejaculation fluid, the sperm retrieval techniques are utilized.
- Surgery: In some cases, the doctor recommends surgery to overturn a sperm blockage and regain fertility.
Varicocelectomy, in which the enlarged veins are removed out of the body, can also be helpful. It is a surgical procedure that increases the blood flow to the reproductive organs. Researchers found that when varicocele formulates in the scrotum, it obstructs the flow of blood to the rest of the reproductive organs.
Treatment For Women
- Intrauterine Insemination: In this, the doctor places healthy sperm within the uterus to improve fertility. It merely increases the amount of sperm traveling into the fallopian tubes, thereby increasing the chances of pregnancy.
- Using Fertility Drugs To Stimulate Ovulation: If a woman is infertile due to ovulation disorder, she can take fertility drugs and stimulate ovulation. Some of the popular fertility drugs include:
- Clomiphene Citrate
Know about the benefits and risks associated with each of the drugs, and choose medication for your condition.
Surgery To Regain Fertility: Surgeries help remove or treat the abnormalities and increase your chances of getting pregnant.
What Complications Can One Have With Infertility Treatment?
Infertility and its treatment can give rise to some complications. When you’re unable to conceive even after several recurrent trials, it can cause stress and depression to people. You can also experience one of the following physical effects:
- Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome(OHSS): The condition can result from the utilization of drugs(such as clomiphene and Gonadotropins) for stimulating fertility.
Some of the common symptoms of OHSS include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dark-colored urine
These symptoms are usually mild and can get relieved quickly. But, when a blood clot develops in an artery or a vein, the condition can lead to death.
It occurs when a fertilized egg implants somewhere exterior to the uterus. If it remains there, complications like damage to the fallopian tubes can happen. The pregnancy has no hope for continuation.
The tube on that side will be damaged, and the condition demands immediate surgery. However, you can get pregnant in the future through other ovary and tube.
Women who are receiving infertility treatments are comparatively more susceptible to develop ectopic pregnancy than others.
Nowadays, there are several alternatives available to treat infertility issues. Expand your knowledge on the prevalent causes, symptoms, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment and improve your chances to increase fertility.
Tags: How to check for infertility, Infertility symptoms, Infertility causes