Infertility :Causes, Solutions And Prevention
World Health Organisation (WHO) defines infertility as “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse” According to the same source, it can also be defined as “the inability of a sexually active, non-contracepting couple to achieve pregnancy in one year.”
What the above simply means is that a person is considered to be having infertility problem when they have issues or trouble getting pregnant or keeping one. There are two kinds of infertility problem that affects many women all over the world . I’ll list and explain them below.
Types Of Infertility
These are the two classes of all infertility cases around the world.
- Primary Infertility
This has to do with the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to live birth. Under this type, there is no previous history of any form of childbirth. That means, the couple has never had a child before. No record of pregnancy or live birth whatsoever.
Here, pregnancy has never occurred or the few that occurred has never led to a full delivery. Cases of miscarriages may or may not have been reported here.
- Secondary Infertility
If a couple has had a child before and have found it almost impossible to have another child after that, their condition is referred to as secondary infertility.
Secondary infertility here then has to do with the inability of a couple to get or keep a pregnancy after a previous live birth.
These two types of infertility are commonly reported among couples where the woman is above 35 years. However, unlike what is widely believed out there, infertility is not only a woman thing. It’s not just a woman problem. It affects both men and women. It is not gender-selective. Attributing to the woman every trace of infertility without medical proofs is gross ignorance.
What Are The Causes Of Infertility?
Infertility has many causes. Identifying the particular causes behind yours (If you are going through the challenge) may just be the beginning of getting the solution.
Like I mentioned earlier, infertility affects both men and women. The factors that can lead to it in men are not necessarily the same for that of women. So I’m going to talk about the causes in both males and females separately.
Causes Of Infertility In Men
Men can also be affected by infertility problems. Below are the common causes of it in men.
- Untreated sexually transmitted diseases e.g. Gonorrhea, Chlamydia etc.
- No sperms cells present in your semen.
- Lack of enough sperm cells in your semen (i.e low sperm count)
- Sperm cells that aren’t properly formed
- Inability of the sperm to move in your semen or swim to reach an egg. This can be as a result of your sperm being too thick for them to move or the sperms having poor motility.
- Problems with ejaculation or your hormones etc.
These are the common causes of infertility in men. Below are some of the common causes in women.
Causes Of Infertility In Women
- Untreated sexually transmitted diseases like Gonorrhea, Chlamydia etc
- Inability to release eggs from the ovaries every month (i.e. Lack of ovulation)
- Blocked fallopian tubes (this makes it impossible for sperms to reach your eggs)
- Lack of implantation as a result of the shape of the uterus
- Fibroids in the uterus
- Poor quality of eggs released etc.
People Who Are At The Higher Risk Of Having Infertility
Certain lifestyles and practices may increase once chances of having this medical condition. The following types of people are at a greater risk of developing this condition.
- Those who are seriously overweight or underweight.
- Those who are regularly exposed to very toxic chemicals. Examples includes pest control chemicals etc.
- People who abuse drugs, alcohol and/or are chain smokers.
- People who has a medical challenge with their testes e.g. undescended testes, overheated testes. This always come from wearing clothes that are too tight around the groin or thighs.
- Female partners over the age of 35, etc.
How infertility Is Mostly Diagnosed
A couple who are experiencing this challenge may need to see a specialist, usually a gynecologist/obstetrician. These set of doctors are specialized in the reproductive health of women. They are the right kinds of people for a couple to meet when it comes to fertility issues.
If the woman is over 35 years, the doctor may advise for a test to be conducted immediately. If she is younger than 35 years, the doctor would usually advise her to wait for at least 1 whole year before going for the test.
This is because women younger than 35 are not considered to be having infertility problems medically until after one year of regular and unprotected sexual intercourse.
During the diagnosis, the doctor will be able to identify the underlying cause of the inability of the couple to conceive by asking them series of questions like:
- How long they’ve been together.
- History of pregnancies and childbirth if any.
- The number of times the couple has sexual intercourse daily/weekly.
- Medical history and current treatment for both the man and woman
- Information about the woman’s menstrual cycle etc.
Apart from just the questions, the coupled may be asked to undergo some physical tests that may involve the doctor inspecting their sex organs, pulse, blood pressure, temperature, hormone testing, pelvic ultrasound etc.
The man will also be asked to submit his sperm sample after abstaining from sex for about 3 to 5 days. To do this, he will be allowed to either masturbate or have sex with his partner in a separate room in the hospital. In this case, he will be provided with a non-spermicidal condom for the collection of his semen.
Using this semen, series of tests will be conducted to identify the cause of their inability to reproduce. Even if a couple has had a child before as in the case of secondary infertility, this is the same process that will be applied for the test.
As for the woman, the doctor would inspect the uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes and all the sexual reproductive organs. This may be done through Pelvic exam, Ultrasound, Hysterocopy, Endometrial biopsy, Hysterosalpingogram, Laparoscopy and Magnetic resonance imaging.
Through any or some of these tests, the doctor will be able to know the underlying cause of the infertility. Whether it is as a result of blocked Fallopian tube, the ovaries not producing eggs or quality of eggs produced and so many other things. Once the cause of the problem has been ascertained, the next thing is treatment.
Treatment Of Infertility
In a few cases, the cause of the infertility remains unknown. This occurs in at least 10% of the reported cases. Treatment then becomes difficult since no real cause can be traced to the inability to conceive.
For other cases in which the cause of the condition is known, the doctor will prescribe some series of drugs, injections and sometimes surgery, depending on the cause.
Other treatment methods which may be suggested by the doctor based on the test results includes:
This method of treatment has to do with the man’s sperms being extracted and washed in the laboratory. After that, the best among them are selected and placed directly in the uterus of the partner.
This is usually done through a fine catheter inserted through her cervix. This procedure helps if the man has issues like erectile dysfunction, decreased sperm mobility etc.
This method of treatment is gradually gaining acceptance all over the world. It is one of the most effective methods of conception all over the world today. Though it is very expensive.
In In-vitro fertilization, sperms from the man are extracted and placed in a test dish along with the woman’s eggs. There fertilization will take place. After fertilization has occurred, the embryo is transferred into the uterus of the partner where it attaches itself to the uterine lining, resulting in pregnancy.
Other advanced treatment options for infertility includes: Assisted hatching, surgical sperm aspiration, sperm/egg donation etc.
Lifestyle changes That can Help Prevent Or Reverse Infertility
Certain lifestyle changes can help prevent or reverse infertility. Some of them are:
- Avoiding or greatly minimizing the intake of alcohol
- Avoid smoking
- Eating healthily
- Regularly participating in exercises to stay fit.
- Treating every sexually transmitted disease while it is still early.
- Regular tests for STI’s
Infertility is a common problem in so many homes. Though many ignorantly blame the woman to be the major cause of it without proofs. Research results have shown that both men and women can have infertility problems.
If infertility is a major concern to you and your partner, the best thing to do is to seek for professional medical care and not lay blames especially without proofs. Once the underlying cause is identified, the solution becomes easier to get.
I hope you find this useful.