Infertility can be defined as the inability of a person to reproduce naturally. Infertility is generally discussed as a condition where the female is unable to get conceive or retain pregnancy. However, infertility also affects males and can be due to various reasons including impotency and low or no sperm count.
Causes of infertility
Causes of infertility in females may be due to various reasons, the most common being:
- Hormonal causes interfere with ovulation, thickening of the endometrium and other related processes that aid the fertilization of the egg.
- Uterine causes include abnormalities in the anatomy of the uterus that impair the implantation of the fetus.
- Damage to fallopian tubes such as endometriosis, infections, and surgeries in the pelvis may damage the fallopian tube and prevent the transport of the eggs to the uterus from the ovaries.
- Other causes of infertility include abnormalities in the cervical canal and irregular mucus production.
Causes of male infertility may be due to:
- Low sperm count or no sperm count (zoospermia) is the foremost reason resulting due to hormonal imbalances, infection and medication.
- Physiological reasons include malformations in the testis or blocked ducts (vas deferens).
- Viable but immotility of sperms is another reason of male infertility.
Diagnosis of infertility can begin if both partners are healthy individuals who have been trying to conceive for more than a year and unsuccessful. Tests for infertility in females include blood tests for determining the hormone levels followed by biopsy of the endometrium to inspect the uterine lining for abnormalities. Additionally, hysterosalpingography is performed to check for any scars in the reproductive organs and laparoscopy to detect obstruction in the fallopian tubes. Similarly, for detecting infertility in males, semen and blood analysis are performed to detect abnormalities in the sperm count and hormone levels, respectively. Specialized tests such as transrectal and scrotal ultrasounds, and testicular biopsy are also performed.
Treatment of infertility in women may involve different procedures. Some of the most common ones are listed below:
- Fertility drugs are the choice of treatment where irregularities in ovulation are the reason for infertility. These drugs act by inducing ovulation or regulating the process.
- IUI or intrauterine insemination is a procedure where healthy sperms collected from the male is placed in the uterus so that fertilization can occur when the egg is released during the monthly ovulation cycle.
- Hysteroscopic surgery is an option for those with polyps, septum or scars in the uterus or endometrium.
- Assisted reproductive therapy (ART) is a combination of procedures where eggs and sperms are subjected to laboratory procedures for efficient fertilization and conception. Invitro Fertilization (IVF) is the most common type of ART. Some of the other sophisticated procedures employed as part of ART are – assisted hatching, donor egg or sperm, surrogacy and intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
Though some of the infertility issues cannot be prevented, there are many ways to increase the chances of pregnancy. Some of them include – quit smoking, limit exposure to alcohol and toxins, regular exercise, control weight gain and consume a balanced diet.