Medically, infertility means that the couple hasn’t conceived after a year of unprotected sex. But for a woman over the age of 35, one can suspect infertility after 6 months of trying. Women experience either primary or secondary infertility. If they did not conceive even once, then it is primary infertility, but if they have one child and are unable to conceive further, it is secondary infertility. However, both men and women are affected by infertility. But that is not the end of the road. Infertile couples can still have children. Research shows that one-third of infertility cases are related to women, and one-third are related to men. In the other cases, the causes are unknown or could be an issue with both partners. In this blog, let us understand infertility in men and women and what options they have to have children.
Infertility in men is the inability to impregnate the female partner. It manifests as poor quality or insufficient production of sperm. An irregularly shaped sperm will not penetrate the egg for fertilization. Issues with the movement of the sperm could be either improper wiggling movement of the sperm itself or issues with transportation within the male reproductive system tubes.
Causes for male infertility
Common causes are associated with:-
- Excessive smoking, alcohol consumption and drug abuse.
- Constant exposure to toxins such as radioactive materials, pesticides and heavy metals.
- Medical and anatomical issues with a male reproductive system such as:-
- Retrograde ejaculation
- Swelling of testicular veins.
- If the testes haven’t descended into the scrotum
- Autoimmune conditions where the antibodies attack the sperm
- There are hormonal imbalances due to which there is an imbalance in testosterone production.
Treatment options for male infertility include:
- Surgery. For example, a varicocele can often be surgically corrected or an obstructed vas deferens repaired. Prior vasectomies can be reversed. In cases where no sperm are present in the ejaculate, sperm can often be retrieved directly from the testicles or epididymis using sperm retrieval techniques.
- Treating infections. Antibiotic treatment might cure an infection of the reproductive tract, but doesn’t always restore fertility.
- Treatments for sexual intercourse problems. Medication or counseling can help improve fertility in conditions such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.
- Hormone treatments and medications. Your doctor might recommend hormone replacement or medications in cases where infertility is caused by high or low levels of certain hormones or problems with the way the body uses hormones.
- Assisted reproductive technology (ART). ART treatments involve obtaining sperm through normal ejaculation, surgical extraction or from donor individuals, depending on your specific case and wishes. The sperm are then inserted into the female genital tract, or used to perform in vitro fertilization or intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
We have defined female infertility at the outset above, but internally what happens in the body? There is an issue with any one of the below-mentioned processes:
- Disturbance in the release of a mature egg from the ovary (Ovulation)
- Issues with fallopian tubes or the cervix thickness, due to which the sperm is unable to meet the egg (Fertilization).
- No proper implantation, i.e., the fertilized egg cannot attach to the lining of the uterus.
Causes for Female Infertility
There are both lifestyle causes and medical causes for infertility. Fertility reduces with age and substantially goes down after the age of 40. Obesity leads to PCOS, one of the top reasons for infertility. Heavy smoking, alcohol usage and drug usage cause female infertility. Medical conditions contributing to infertility are:-
- Disorders in ovulation and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Fibroids in the uterus
- Premature menopause
- Surgical scarring
What are the fertility treatment options available ?
Some couples need more help conceiving. To increase pregnancy odds, a woman may first take medications to stimulate ovulation before trying one of these options:
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI): A healthcare provider uses a long, thin tube to place sperm directly into the uterus.
- In vitro fertilization (IVF): IVF is a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART). It involves harvesting the eggs at the end of the stimulation and placing sperm and eggs together in a lab dish. The sperm fertilize the eggs. A provider transfers one of the fertilized eggs (embryo) into the uterus.
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): This procedure is similar to IVF. An embryologist (highly specialized lab technician) directly injects a single sperm into each of the harvested eggs and then a provider transfers an embryo into the uterus.
- Third-party ART: Couples may use donor eggs, donor sperm or donor embryos. Some couples need a gestational carrier or surrogate. This person agrees to carry and give birth to your baby.
Men and women can take these steps to protect their fertility, especially while trying to conceive:
- Eat a well-balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight.
- Don’t smoke, misuse drugs or drink excessively.
- Get treated for STDs.
- Limit exposure to toxins.
- Stay physically active, but don’t overdo exercise.
Stay positive. Infertility does not mean that you cannot have a child. It might take longer, but many couples have enjoyed the joy of bringing a child into this world despite infertility. It might happen naturally or with some medical help. Discuss freely with your doctor and get support from your families as well. You can discuss with another couple who went through these processes and find good support in them. Even if conception does not happen, there are surrogacy and adoption options too.
We at ZIVA fertility centers are very proud to mention that we have helped many couples realize their dream of having a baby in many ways. Reach us today and have a personal consultation and let us be with you in this journey. Call 91-93474 06900 or +91 78424 00104; or email: Info@zivafertility.com to consult our fertility expert.