What is infertility?
Infertility is the inability of a couple to become pregnant through natural means. Infertility affects the couple, both the man and the woman, who cannot have a child naturally. There are two types of infertility: primary infertility, affecting couples who have not become pregnant after at least one year of unprotected sexual intercourse, and secondary infertility, affecting couples who were able to become pregnant in the past but are now unable to.
Symptoms of infertility:
There are various symptoms of infertility in men and women.
In women, symptoms may be related to the menstrual cycle and ovulation: abnormal menstruation, with more or less bleeding than usual; irregular menstruation, when the number of days between each menstruation is different each month; amenorrhoea, i.e., no menstruation; or dysmenorrhea, very painful menstruation. There may also be symptoms unrelated to menstruation, such as pain during sexual intercourse.
In men, the symptoms of sperm-related infertility include small amounts of ejaculate. There are also symptoms unrelated to semen, such as changes in hair growth, changes in sexual desire and erection problems. Men may also have a low sperm-count, making the chance of conceiving naturally more difficult.
What causes infertility?
Common causes of infertility among men and women are:
- Birth defects of the reproductive system
- Cancer, tumours, chemotherapy drugs, radiation therapy
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Hormonal imbalances
- Scarring from sexually transmitted infections, abdominal surgery, or endometriosis
- Older age
- Pelvic infection
In women, infertility may be caused by:
- Autoimmune treatments
- Clotting disorders
- Excessive exercise
- Eating disorders
- Neoplastic lesions of the cervix and/or uterus, ovarian cysts, polycystic ovary syndrome
- Tubal ligation
- Thyroid problems
In men, the causes of infertility may include:
- Use of certain medications such as cimetidine, spironolactone, and nitrofurantoin
- Retrograde ejaculation
- Scarring from sexually transmitted diseases, injury, or surgery
- Environmental toxins
- Vasectomy or vasovasostomy failure
Can infertility be prevented?
Generally, if the origin of the infertility is genetic or caused by disease, then nothing can be done. However, you can avoid certain factors that may cause infertility:
- Take preventive measures against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Do not use drugs
- Do not drink alcohol frequently or excessively
- Maintain good personal hygiene
- For women, have a gynaecological check-up once a year once you are sexually active
- For men, wear loose underwear and avoid hot baths, saunas and exposure to sources of radiation
What is infertility treatment?
Methods to treat infertility in men and women include taking hormones to resolve the hormonal imbalance, supplements to improve fertility, and antibiotics in the case of infection.
For women, having minor surgery to remove blockages or scar tissue from the fallopian tubes, uterus, or pelvic area is another option.
If these methods are unsuccessful, assisted reproduction techniques can be tried.