Infertility FAQs: Answering The 9 Most Common Questions
In this article, we’ll answer the most common infertility FAQs on the internet.
Even in the 21st century, infertility has a lot of stigma around it. It is seen as a curse and often leads people to take radical measures.
Infertility is essentially a disease that renders the reproductive system unable to perform its basic function – reproduction.
Below are some of the most common questions answered to help you better understand this disease and take appropriate measures.
1. What is infertility? Does it mean you can never have children?
Infertility is the inability to conceive naturally after at least 12 months of unprotected, well-timed sex. It does not mean that you can never have children. It is different from being sterile.
Sterility, on the other hand, is the complete inability to have children without medical intervention, that is, via treatment methods.
Pregnancy involves the following important steps:
- Ovulation (the woman’s ovary releases an egg)
- Fertilization (man’s sperm joins the egg)
- The fertilized egg makes way to the uterus via the fallopian tube
- Implantation (fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall)
An issue with any one or more of these steps can cause infertility.
2. How common is infertility?
According to the data, with no recent significant increase in the numbers, infertility affects every one out of eight couples. About 6 percent of women in the United States aged between 15-44 were reported infertile. However, there has been an increase in the number of women getting diagnosed with infertility.
3. What is the diagnosis for infertility?
In males, it is required that the sperm is healthy and can effectively travel to the egg and fertilize it. Thus, the tests for male fertility check whether there is an impairment in these processes. Specific tests can include semen analysis, hormone testing, genetic testing, testicular biopsy, imaging (like vasography and scrotal ultrasound), and other tests that include testing any DNA abnormalities.
In females, it is required that the body releases a healthy egg(s) that get passed onto the fallopian tubes to get fertilized by the sperm. The fertilized embryo then needs to get implanted into the uterine lining. Thus, female fertility tests include assessing if any of these processes are damaged. Specific tests include ovulation testing, hysterosalpingography, ovarian reserve testing, imaging (like sonohysterogram and pelvic ultrasound), and other hormonal tests to check ovulatory and pituitary hormones.
Hysteroscopy (test for uterine diseases) and Laparoscopy (test for any abnormalities in the fallopian tubes, uterus, and ovaries) can be performed in certain cases if asked by the doctor.
4. What are the symptoms of infertility?
In women, symptoms of infertility include:
- Absence of or irregular, painful, abnormal periods
- Changes in sex drive and desire
- Dark hair growth around chin, chest, and lips
- Hot flashes
- Hair thinning
- Hair loss
- Changes in skin (more acne)
- Milky breast discharge
- Painful intercourse
- More than one miscarriage
- Changes in sexual desire/ low libido
- Painful, swollen, small, and lumpy testicles
- Issues with erections and ejaculations
- Changes in hair growth
5. Does it only affect women?
No. Earlier, infertility was mainly considered to be a woman’s problem only. However, people have started to consider that infertility issues can arise from problems in the male partner as well. Men and women both contribute approximately equally to the infertility ratio.
About one-third or 40 percent of cases are attributed to women and another 40 percent to men. Nearly 10 percent of cases are attributed to both genders while the last 10 percent of infertility cases are still unexplained even after various tests.
6. What causes infertility in men and women?
In men, infertility can be caused due to various reasons ranging from external factors to medical conditions.
- Abusing unhealthy substances like drugs, steroids, alcohol, or tobacco
- Shock to the testes can affect the quantity and production of sperms
- Medical conditions like Varicoceles (where the veins on the testes are large and thus overheat to cause the quality and quantity of the sperm to deteriorate).
- Other medical conditions like certain infections and autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and cystic fibrosis
- The hormones produced by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland maintain normal testicular function. Thus, any impairment of these glands can cause low to no sperm production.
- Genetic mutations like Klinefelter syndrome, Y-chromosome microdeletion, and so on
Conditions affecting a woman’s ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus can be the cause of infertility.
- Anovulation, that is absent ovulation during the menstrual cycle. This condition can be the result of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), menopause, DOR (diminished ovarian reserve), among others.
- Open, blocked, or swollen fallopian tubes
- Abnormal physical characteristics of the uterus
7. Does Viagra affect one’s fertility?
Erectile Dysfunction is faced by many men around the world. Due to this reason, as well as thanks to its popularity, Viagra has become one of the most used medicine in the world. That’s why it’s easy to get your hands on it. In fact, you can easily buy generic 100mg Viagra online these days.
Earlier, it was believed that Viagra can affect one’s fertility. But that’s not the case. As per a recent review of all the studies taken place between 1998 to 2019, Sildenafil, the active ingredient of Viagra, does not alter the semen parameters. In fact, it might have a positive impact.
8. How can age impact one’s fertility?
Age is one of the most important factors that can affect fertility, especially for a woman. As a woman nears her 40s, she is also coming closer to (or has already gone through) menopause.
This causes a decline in the number and quality of eggs released in her ovaries. Menopause is one of the most common and predictable reasons for older women not being able to conceive, or being infertile. Aged women also carry a higher risk of miscarriage.
Other medical conditions that usually come with age and that can compromise a woman’s ability to conceive include hypothyroidism, diabetes, STD (sexually transmitted diseases), endometriosis, and other surgeries to reproductive organs.
Many experts suggest women over 35 years of age try and conceive for longer than a year before visiting the doctor, while many say they should make a visit as soon as 6 months after trying.
In males, age-related changes are not as drastic as in women. Their reproductive abilities can be affected by an infection, medications, and also occupational and environmental chemicals.
9. What are the various treatment methods for infertility?
Today, there are many ways to conceive other than the traditional methods.
- IUI (Intra-uterine insemination): A simple fertility treatment where a medical professional inserts semen directly into the uterus while the woman is ovulating.
- ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology): This is an umbrella term that covers all fertility treatments which include the handling of eggs and embryos outside the body. Two common treatments under ART are:
- In vitro fertilization (IVF): A procedure where eggs and sperms are combined in a petri dish and left to mature. The embryo is then planted in the same or a different woman.
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): In this treatment, each sperm is handled with a needle under a microscope and then injected directly into each egg to fertilize.
- Fertility drugs: These drugs help with encouraging ovulation in women who ovulate irregularly.
Infertility FAQs: Conclusion
Infertility can be a lot to deal with psychologically as well. Make sure you consult a therapist to take care of your mental well-being before making any drastic decisions.
There are a few other treatment plans that have not been mentioned here. Talk to your doctor about what best suits your condition and needs and choose a treatment plan wisely. It should also be financially feasible so as to not break the bank.
December 1, 2020 Sam Bell