Infertility; causes and treatment options

Infertility is the inability to conceive and bear children. It is good to know the causes and the treatment options so as seek medical attention as early as possible. The following article provides that information.

Inability to conceive is not confined to one person; it is a problem that affects both men and women.

Simply put, infertility is the inability to conceive. A couple may be considered infertile if after two years of regular sexual intercourse without contraception, the woman fails to get pregnant. It is worth noting, though, that breast feeding may hinder conception.

Primary infertility refers to cases where the infertile couple has never had a child, while secondary infertility describes failure to conceive following a previous pregnancy.

Infertility affects approximately 10 to 15 per cent of reproductive age couples. The older a woman gets, the higher the likelihood of infertility. Women who postpone childbearing until their thirties may have more difficulties conceiving and have an increased risk of miscarriage.

Causes of infertility

There are many and complex causes of infertility; 35 per cent of these causes are attributed to female factors, while another 35 per cent are due to male factors. Combined, female and male factors contribute to 20 per cent of causes infertility while 10 per cent of the cases have no known causes.

Female causes include

Abnormalities affecting the female reproductive tract, that is the ovary, fallopian tubes, uterus, or the cervix. These could include blocked tubes and a narrowed cervix, fibroids and other growths within the uterus, as well as inability of the ovary to release eggs.

A major cause of infertility is recurrent pelvic inflammatory diseases caused by chlamydia, and which may result in fallopian tube blockage.

Being underweight or overweight also affects fertility, while it significantly reduces in women above 35 years. It is, therefore, harder to conceive the older one gets.

Male causes include insufficient amounts of sperm production and low sperm quality.

Combined factors include lifestyle causes such as cigarette smoking, illicit drugs, inadequate diet, extreme weight loss or extreme weight gain. Use of contraception could also decrease fertility.

Evaluation is important

It is important to evaluate both the man and the woman when investigating the causes of infertility. This is because, as explained earlier, infertility is not confined to one person; it is a problem that affects both men and women.

Evaluation must determine the type of infertility – whether primary or secondary – if there were any previous pregnancies, previous pregnancy loss, menstrual history, frequency of periods, history of weight change, or diseases such as hirsutism or acne.

Men should be questioned about history of impotence, premature ejaculation, change in libido, and children from previous partners.

The couple should also be questioned about history of any sexually transmitted diseases, surgical procedures such as tubal ligation, vasectomy, lifestyle, alcohol intake, and cigarette smoking. It might be important to rule out other diseases such as diabetes and pituitary disorders.

Treatment of Infertility

A treatment plan is generated depending on the causes of infertility, its duration, and the age of the woman.

Intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization as treatment modalities are considered in cases of low and inadequate sperm count, impotence, ore erectile dysfunction syndromes. In vitro fertilization may also be considered in cases of fallopian tube blockage. Structural uterine abnormalities may be corrected surgically. Surgery may also be considered for reversible tubal blockage.

Infertility can lead to severe emotional trauma and stigmatization, especially for the woman. Couples trying to conceive may get anxious and, unfortunately, this worsens sexual dysfunction.

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