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Infertility is a condition where a heterosexual couple is unable to conceive after one year of regular unprotected intercourse. Contrary to popular belief, infertility is not just a woman’s problem and it affects both men and women almost equally. And while many people suffering from infertility never approach medical practitioners for help, it is estimated that infertility affects more than 10% women and men of reproductive age. The good part is that almost 90% of infertility cases can be treated using either medication or surgery or both. In many cases, simple lifestyle changes coupled with medications often lead to a treatment of infertility.
Some of the main causes of infertility in men and women and their treatments are outlined below:
Main Causes of Infertility in Women
- Failure to ovulate or irregular ovulation due to hormonal imbalance or deficiencies.
- Poor or deteriorating egg quality, especially found in females aged over 35 years of age.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome where multiple cysts in the ovary prevent it from functioning normally.
- Obesity or extra weight that may cause irregular ovulation.
- Problems in the uterus like congenital defects, scarring or the presence of tumors or fibroids.
- Absence or deficiency of cervical mucus that may cause problems in mobility of the sperm.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (infection of female reproductive system caused because of sexually transmitted diseases like Gonorrhea and Chlamydia) which may cause fallopian tubes to get blocked or damaged.
- Endometriosis, damaged fallopian tubes or adhesions and scars in the fallopian tube that cause blockage in the tubes preventing the egg from traveling to the uterus to get fertilised.
- Other surgery that might have caused scar tissue to adhere in the abdomen or fallopian tubes.
Treatment: Treatment of infertility cases in women first involves through examinations to identify the root cause of the problem. In some cases, where hormonal imbalance is the main cause of infertility, fertility drugs and hormone replenishment therapy are generally used for treatment. For other cases, where there is a problem that prevents ovulation, the use of eggs provided by donors or in vitro fertilisation (IVF) is considered. In instances where a blocked fallopian tube is the cause of infertility in a woman, surgery is often used for removing the blocked or damaged portion of the tube. In many cases, like that where PID is the main cause of tube damage or whenever large portions of the tube are blocked or damaged; in vitro fertilisation is used for treating infertility.
Main Causes of Infertility in Men
- Blockage or damage to the vas deferens. These are the tubes that carry sperm from their store to ejaculation.
- Blocked or damaged epididymis. The epididymis are the tubes that house and carry sperm from the testes.
- Deficiency of semen or sperm due to hormonal or lifestyle problems or as a side effect of some medication.
- Low sperm motility or failure of sperm to travel to the fallopian tubes.
- Improperly shaped or poor quality sperm.
Treatment: Just like in the case of women, men suffering from infertility will first have to undergo proper examination so that the main cause of infertility can be diagnosed. In case there is a blockage in the epididymis or the vas deferens, then surgery might be used to clear the blocked tubes and enable normal functioning. In case of other problems like a low sperm count or a problem regarding sperm motility, fertility drugs might be used to enhance the production or quality of the sperm. Some of the main ways of making females conceive where sperm count is low in partners is through artificial insemination using IUIs. In many such cases, donor sperm may also be used. Another IVF technology that has become quite popular as a means of combating male infertility is the use of ICSIs or intracytoplasmic sperm injections, where the sperm is directly injected into the egg.
Other Causes of Infertility in Men and Women
Apart from the above mentioned reasons that generally cause infertility in almost 90% cases, there are other causes of infertility such as stress, exposure to radiation, injury to the reproductive organs, improper development of the reproductive system, STDs, varicose veins, exposure of the testes to very high temperatures, hormonal imbalances, the use of certain medications, tobacco, alcohol and drugs can often cause infertility in men.
In women, a minority of cases are caused because of thyroid or diabetes, genetic problems, production of chemicals that kill sperm in the female body, stress, radiation and the use of tobacco, alcohol, certain medication and drugs. Thorough assessment and examination is generally required to identify the root cause of infertility in both men and women and only a trained fertility specialist will be able to provide you with the best possible solutions for your infertility problems. However, since infertility is age related in many cases, it is important that you consult a doctor as soon as you realise that you are suffering from it in order to maximise your chances of overcoming it and getting treated.