In simple terms, infertility is the inability of a couple to bear children when using no contraception. This could be due to the male not being able to contribute to conception or the female not able to carry a pregnancy to term. Though the female is attributed to be the reason very often, almost 50% of infertility cases are due to issues with both the male and female.
Causes: Some of the main male and female causes of infertility are listed below.
- Women: Poor egg quality, thyroid abnormalities, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, pelvic surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and uterine prolapse.
- Men: Erectile dysfunction, hypogonadism, low sperm count, poor sperm quality, testicular infections, ejaculation disorders.
Risk factors: Infertility is on the rise and some of the risk factors are identified to be:
- Advanced maternal age: With females choosing to have children later in life, even as late as 40 years, infertility is on the rise. As per studies, female fertility is believed to reduce after 32 years.
- Smoking: This is the biggest contributor of infertility in recent times, the effect is more severe when the woman is also a smoker
- Obesity: With changing lifestyles, obesity has become an epidemic in both women and men, leading to infertility.
- Increased stress levels: This leads to strained relationships. Impotence in men, poor egg quality, and erectile dysfunction are all caused by increased stress levels, leading to infertility.
- Eating disorders: Leads to obesity and poor health overall, leading to infertility.
- Alcohol consumption: This again causes erectile dysfunction, leading to infertility.
- Excessive or lack of exercise: Lack of exercise leads to obesity and overall lethargy. Over-exercising, on the other hand, leads to erectile dysfunction.
- Environmental pollution: Exposure to toxins and chemicals has increased, reducing overall sperm and egg quality.
Infertility is often caused by a combination of these factors. Changing lifestyles with smoking among women on the rise is a major cause of infertility.
Diagnosing infertility: The reason for infertility should be identified so that treatment can be directed appropriately. Most often, women are cited as the reason for a couple’s infertility. That is not necessarily the case, and in about 30% of the cases, the male also could be contributing to infertility. The following methods are useful:
- Physical exam
- Semen analysis
- Blood tests
- STD testing
- Thyroid function tests
Treatment: Once the cause is identified, then targeted treatment can be done, including:
- Sexual counselling for the couple
- Treatment for erectile dysfunction and hypogonadism
- Hormonal treatments for women
- Fallopian tube surgery
- Laparoscopic surgery.
- Intrauterine insemination
- In-vitro fertilization
- Sperm donation
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