Infertility is the inability to get pregnant after a year of unprotected intercourse. Both men and women can be infertile.
Women are born with a finite number of eggs. Thus, as the reproductive years progress, the number and quality of the eggs diminish. The chances of having a baby decrease by 3% to 5% per year after the age of 30 and this reduction is noted to a much greater extent after age 40.
Female infertility can also be caused by a number of factors including:
1. Damage to fallopian tubes - Damage to the fallopian tubes can prevent contact between the egg and sperm. Pelvic infections, endometriosis, and pelvic surgeries can lead to fallopian tube damage.
2. Hormonal causes - This can lead to ovulation disorders which prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs such as in polycystic ovary syndrome , hyperprolactinemia or disorders of the thyroid gland - hyperthyroidism / hypothyroidism, can interrupt the menstrual cycle and cause infertility.
3. Cervical causes - A small group of women may have a problem in which the sperm cannot pass through the cervical canal. Whatever the reason is , this problem may be treated with intrauterine inseminations.
4. Uterine causes - Abnormal anatomy and distortion of the uterine cavity due to the presence of polyps and fibroids or problem with the endometrial lining can lead to failed implantation of the embryo.
Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus - often affecting the function of the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes.
5. Primary Ovarian Insufficiency - Also called as Premature Menopause, when the ovaries stop working prematurely before the age of 40. Certain conditions are associated with early menopause like immune system diseases, radiation or chemotherapy and smoking.
Causes of male infertility may include:
1. Abnormal sperm production or function due to various problems, such as undescended testicles, genetic defects, health problems including diabetes, prior infections such as mumps, trauma or prior surgeries on the testicles or inguinal region.
2. Problems with the delivery of sperm, due to sexual problems, such as premature or retrograde ejaculation, certain genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, structural problems, such as blockage of the epididymis, or damage to the reproductive organs.
3. Overexposure to certain chemicals and toxins, such as pesticides, radiation, tobacco smoke, alcohol, frequent exposure to heat can elevate the testicular temperature, impairing sperm production.
4. Damage related to cancer and its treatment, including radiation or chemotherapy for which timely cryopreservation can be done for future use.
5. Unexplained infertility, In approximately 20% of couples the cause cannot be determined using the currently available methods of investigation.
Why is IVF the best way to treat infertility in women?
Conception is a complicated process that depends on many factors:
On the production of healthy sperm by the man and healthy eggs by the woman
IVF (or in-vitro fertilization) is a lab procedure where the sperm and the egg are combined in a dish (where fertilization takes place) and is followed by transferring the embryo (the fertilized egg) into the uterus. It is increasingly being used as a method to conceive as it has been established as a safe procedure that helps bypass a number of complications women may face while conceiving such as ovulation problems and issues with the fallopian tube.
Even women who face issues such as PCOS, endometriosis and premature ovarian failure can conceive through this process. Moreover, IVF has been in practice since 1978 and has a safe track record. The success rates of IVF are high as well, making it a preferred procedure for couples who suffer from fertility problems. Unexplained infertility can also be treated with the help of this procedure.
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