Infertility is the biological inability of a man or woman to reproduce by natural means. It is a state where a woman is either unable to conceive or unable to carry a pregnancy to full term. Women who are fertile, experience ovulation which is the fertile period for them. Rest of the time, they are naturally infertile. Infertility is referred to as childlessness in women of reproductive age. Women between the age of 24 and 30 are most fertile and this fertile state starts diminishing after 30 years of age. Some get pregnant upto 40 years of age but usually a late pregnancy is accompanied by complications. Male fertility is maximum at 25 years of age and diminishes after 40 years.
A couple is called infertile when they fail to conceive even after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse. The issue could be with a single partner or a culmination of different factors.
Causes of infertility in women:
There are various reason why women are infertile. Some of these are:
- Ovulation issues: A woman ovulating regularly is considered fertile. There are cases when some women do not ovulate regularly or sometimes do not ovulate at all. There could be an issue with the ovary. Sometimes, the quality of the egg that is produced is not good and so not conducive for fertilization. A thyroid problem also affects ovulation and in turn fertility.
- Genes: If there is a history of infertility in the family, the chances are higher that you too will have issues in getting pregnant.
- Problems in the uterus: Women are unable to conceive because there is a problem with the uterus or the fallopian tube. The cervix or the fallopian tubes could have been damaged during surgery. Also there could be fibroids in the uterus which may hinder conception. Cells which are normally found in the uterus actually grow elsewhere in the body.
- Medication: If a woman has taken certain medication like aspirin or ibuprofen for long periods she could find it difficult to conceive. Also medicines used in chemotherapy can cause ovarian failure.
- Radiation: If any radiation was done near a woman’s reproductive organs, it could cause infertility.
- Illegal Drugs: If a woman is taking drugs like marijuana or cocaine, it could affect fertility in her.
There are also cases where the man is infertile and so the couple may not be able to have children.
Some of the causes of male infertility are:
- Semen: Semen is the fuld that is released during intercourse from the man’s penis. This seminal fluid contains the sperm. In some cases, the semen might not contain a sperm or may contain very few as compared to a normal count. In some cases the shape of the sperm could be such that it does not aid fertilization. In some cases the sperm will not be mobile. All these affect fertility of a man.
- Ejaculation problems: Some men may not be able to ajaculate properly and thus might not be able to make a baby.
- Testosterone deficiency could also make a man infertile.
- Medication: If a man has taken steroids and other medications for long periods, it could affect his fertility.
- Radiotherapy can affect fertility of a man if performed near his testicles.
- Illegal drugs like cocaine and marijuana if taken, can lead to infertility of a man.
- Urethral opening: This should be at the tip of the penis and this helps the sperm move into the cervix. In a few men, this may be at the under side of the penis, which may hinder sperm movement into the cervix.
- Genes: If there is a genetic abnormality then the sperm count could be low and abnormal development of the testicles.
Age is the biggest determinant of fertility. If a woman is in the age group of 24 to 30 years of age, she is very fertile, everything else being normal. Also, there are a few activities which increase the risk of becoming pregnant like smoking and consuming alcohol. Being overweight affects fertility be it a man or woman. The same is the case with being underweight also. Over exercising or not exercising at all can also cause infertility. Last but not the least, mental stress also plays a great role in fertility. A man or woman under stress find it difficult to conceive.
Solutions for infertility:
In many cases, infertility can be treated in a man or a woman. For men, surgery of the testicles can aid sperm movement and thereby facilitating fertilization. Also the sperm can be taken from the testicles or bladder and injected into an egg at a laboratory to fertilize.
In the case of women, they are given fertility drugs which regulate or aid ovulation. Surgery of the fallopian tubes in certain cases where there is blockage, also helps fertilization of egg. In some cases hormone injections are given to women. In some cases a fertilized egg is placed in the uterus where it develops into a baby.
Infertility is not a disease. In fact in today’s world, there are several options and treatments available for setting it right. In many cases the women go through enormous mental stress if unable to conceive. It is a time where she should be given good advice, made to think positive and given emotional support.