Infertility In Men And Women: Causes, Risks, & Treatments
In this article, we’ll discuss some causes of infertility in both men and women, as well as appropriate treatments.
Infertility for men is the inability to conceive after 12 months of consistent unprotected sexual intercourse. For women over the age of 35, this period is 6 months. Infertility is not uncommon these days. Several reasons can lead to infertility. Abnormal hormonal conditions, an unhealthy lifestyle, over-indulgence in illegal drugs, and even legal medication, surgeries, etc. are some common causes.
However, infertility is treatable and there is a wide range of treatments available. Your doctor of choice, in this case, should be a reproductive endocrinologist.
Infertility In Women
Female infertility can have several causes. Some of these could be PCOS, thyroid issues, menopause, etc.
Causes Of Infertility In Women
1. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a medical condition that disturbs the ovulation cycle and normal hormone levels of a woman. PCOS causes painful and irregular periods as well as fluctuating weight. In some women, it may also increase testosterone levels which leads to increasing facial hair growth. PCOS is one of the main reasons for infertility among women. This is why infertility prevails in around 70-80% of women with PCOS.
Menopause is defined as the state wherein a woman has not had her periods in the past 12 months from the date of last menstruation. Menopause is the body’s indication that it is not producing any more eggs, technically marking the end of a woman’s fertility. However, the chances of conceiving remain.
3. Submucosal Fibroids
These fibroids cause damage to the uterus in several ways. They may cause irregular bleeding during menstruation and also damage the inner lining of the uterus known as the endometrium. This affects the way the egg interacts with the uterus, eventually causing difficulties in achieving pregnancy.
Submucosal fibroids can also widen the uterus and affect its natural contours. This causes the sperm to travel more distances to reach the egg, thus lower chances of pregnancy.
4. Past Contraceptive Surgeries
If you have undergone any surgeries in the past meant for sterilization, you may experience difficulties in conceiving a baby even after the reversal process, as the fallopian tubes are damaged during such procedures.
5. Irregular Periods
An irregular menstrual cycle adversely impacts the normal ovulation cycle of a woman. This could mean the woman may be ovulating at a reduced frequency or not ovulating at all. Ovulation is critical for pregnancy.
Women can be prescribed drugs that stimulate ovulation and induce the ovaries for developing mature eggs. If you are prescribed these drugs, make sure to know about their side effects and precautions from your doctor.
Metformin, Letrozole, Clomiphene Citrate, etc. are some well-known medicines to increase the fertility rate within a woman. Whereas, mature cheese, lentils, sunflower seeds, full-fat yogurt, etc. are good foods in help with infertility.
2. In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
IVF is one of the most renowned and common treatment when it comes to female infertility. In IVF, multiple eggs are retrieved and fertilized with sperm in a petri dish in a lab. After several days of fertilization in the lab, the embryo is planted in the uterus.
IVF is also used when the couple receiving the treatment uses donor eggs or sperms, due to complications in own their eggs or sperm.
Surgery is generally prescribed to women facing issues like blockages of the fallopian tube or fibroids in the uterus.
Also Read: Infertility FAQs, Answered
Infertility In Men
Male infertility can be a result of many issues like erectile dysfunction, surgery due to BPH (Benign Prostate Hyperplasia), prostate issues, etc.
Causes Of Infertility In Men
1. Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
Erectile Dysfunction is one of the most common causes of infertility in men. A male diagnosed with erectile dysfunction has difficulty in maintaining and achieving erections. This could result in unpleasant sexual intercourse with the male not being able to climax. In most cases, intercourse may even seem like a distant possibility.
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2. Sperm Issues
Conditions like reduced sperm motility and low sperm count can also lead to infertility among men. Low sperm count is the condition when your semen has less than 15 million sperm per milliliter. This reduces the chances of one of your sperms reaching and fertilizing your partner’s eggs. Reduced sperm motility is the sperm’s inability to move properly. Low motility implies that the sperm can’t travel the required distance to fertilize an egg.
3. Cancer Treatment
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy have adverse effects on the reproductive health of a man. The harmful side effects of chemotherapy drugs and radiation affect the testicles and their ability to produce sperm.
It can be defined as a varicose vein or swollen vein in the scrotum. Varicocele may be caused by overheated testicles or when there is a lot of pressure on the testicles. Varicocele affects sperm production and consequently results in reduced fertility.
5. Ejaculatory disorders
Premature ejaculation and retrograde ejaculation can be classified as ejaculatory disorders. Retrograde ejaculation is the condition when the semen is released into the bladder instead of the penis. It can cause dry orgasms, where a man releases little to no semen.
1. Lifestyle Changes
Changing your lifestyle is one of the safest treatments for infertility if you’re a male. This type of treatment is generally advised if the underlying condition for infertility is erectile dysfunction. Making appropriate changes to your lifestyle and diet can help treat ED, boost sperm count, and improve fertility.
If the reason for infertility is hormonal issues or low sperm count, drugs are prescribed to tackle hormonal imbalance and improve testicular function, hence alleviating symptoms of infertility. Clomid, Arimidex, Testosterone supplements, hCG, hMG, etc. are medicines that help with male fertility.
For men who face blockage issues in the transport system of semen, surgery may prove to be beneficial. Additionally, men who face the problem of varicocele are also prescribed surgery to repair the affected nerve.
Risk Factors Involved: Men & Women
The risk factors for both men and women are generally the same when it comes to infertility.
- Age: This is a no brainer. The reproductive system’s fertility decreases as it ages. It is generally after the age of 30 that both men and women start to lose their sperm and eggs respectively, thus gradually reducing their fertility.
- Tobacco & Alcohol: Consumption of tobacco and copious amounts of alcohol are known to harm reproductive health, irrespective of gender. In males, tobacco harms the testicles. Considering testicles are responsible for the production of sperm, it definitely affects fertility. Similarly, tobacco affects the ovulation cycle in women. Alcohol affects sperm quality in men and causes irregular menstrual and ovulation cycles in women.
- Abnormal Weight: Obesity is the underlying cause of several medical conditions and infertility is no exception. If you are a woman, being overweight could disrupt your menstrual cycle. In the case of males, obesity has adverse effects on testosterone production. In the same manner, being underweight also impacts fertility as the body may be devoid of the necessary fats and proteins required for the synthesis of reproductive hormones in both men and women.
Make use of this knowledge and ensure to stay on the safe side in terms of infertility. You never know, you may find yourself surfing the internet for such information in the future.
May 21, 2020 Sam Bell