infertility : Definition, Causes & Treatment

Definition:

Infertility is defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sex.

Infertility : Definition, Causes & Treatment

A woman who’s never been able to get pregnant will be diagnosed with primary infertility. A woman who’s had at least one successful pregnancy in the past will be diagnosed with secondary infertility. Infertility isn’t just a woman’s problem. Men can be infertile too. In fact, men and women are equally likely to have fertility problems. About one-third of infertility cases can be attributed to female infertility while men’s problems account for another third of infertility cases. The remaining third of cases may be caused by a combination of male and female infertility, or they may have no known cause.

Causes of female infertility

A variety of medical conditions can affect the female reproductive system and cause infertility in women, examples include:

  • Ovulation disorders, which can be caused by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or hormonal imbalances
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Premature ovarian failure
  • Scarring from a previous surgery

Risk factors for female infertility include:

  • Increasing age
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Heavy use of alcohol
  • Being overweight, obese, or significantly underweight
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can damage the reproductive system

Causes of male infertility

Some examples of medical conditions that can cause male infertility include:

  • Retrograde ejaculation
  • Varicocele, or the swelling of the veins around the testicles
  • Cryptorchidism; Undescended Testicles
  • Antibodies that attack your sperm and destroy them
  • Hormonal imbalance, such as low testosterone production

Risk factors associated with infertility in men include:

  • Older age
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Heavy use of alcohol
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Exposure to toxins, such as pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals

Infertility testing

Infertility tests for male include:

  • Scrotal ultrasound
  • Transrectal ultrasound
  • Hormone testing
  • Post-ejaculation urinalysis
  • Genetic tests
  • Testicular biopsy
  • Specialized sperm function tests

Infertility tests for female include:

  • Examination of pelvic area
  • Hormone testing
  • Chlamydia test: Chlamydia is an STI that can affect fertility
  • Ultrasound scan
  • Ovulation Testing
  • Laparoscopy
  • Hysterosalpingography, which is a type of X-ray used to evaluate the fallopian tubes and uterus

Infertility treatment

The type of treatment can depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • Cause of infertility
  • Duration of unprotected sex
  • Age
  • The overall health of both partners

Male Treatment

Treatment options for men can include surgery, medication, and assisted reproductive technology (ART).

Surgery can fix obstructions that are preventing sperm from being present in the ejaculate. It can also correct conditions such as varicocele. In some cases, sperm can be retrieved directly from the testicles after which it can be used in ART treatments.

Medications can be used to treat issues such as hormonal imbalances. They can also be used to treat other conditions that can affect male fertility, such as ED or infections that affect sperm count.

ART refers to treatments in which eggs and sperm are handled outside of the body. It can include treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Sperm for ART treatments can be received from ejaculate, extraction from the testicles, or a donor.

Female Treatment

The treatment for female infertility can also involve surgery, medication, and reproductive assistance such as ART.

Surgery can improve fertility by:

  • Correcting an abnormally shaped uterus
  • Unblocking fallopian tubes
  • Removing fibroids

The medications used to treat female infertility work like hormones that are naturally present in the body to either encourage or regulate ovulation.

Reproductive assistance can involve methods such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and ART. During IUI, millions of sperm are injected into a woman’s uterus near the time of ovulation. IVF is one type of ART and involves the removal of eggs that are then fertilized with a man’s sperm in a laboratory. After fertilization, the embryo is placed back into the uterus.

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