If you and your partner have been trying long to conceive but have failed, then you are not alone. One in every six couples have a form of infertility during their reproductive lifetime and infertility problems may be in either partner. Around 20-30% cases of infertility are caused due to physiological issues in men and 20-35% due to physiological issues in women. But before we move into further detail we must know what infertility exactly means. Infertility is described as the inability to conceive even after 12 months of regular unprotected intercourse without contraception. In most cases, our modern lifestyle is held as the chief cause of infertility. Stress is a leading cause of infertility in women and men alike.
Risk Factors for Both Men and Women
There are certain factors that increase the risk of infertility in both men and women and couples trying to conceive must be aware of these factors.
Smoking: The harmful effects of smoking need not be stated again and to add to the list; smoking also increases the risk of infertility in both men and women. It deteriorates the quality and count of sperm in men and affects the egg in women increases the risk of miscarriage.
Consumption of Alcohol: Alcohol consumption has various adverse effects on health. It lowers sperm count and quality of sperm in men and reduces the chances of a healthy pregnancy in women.
Being Overweight or Obese: One of the worst outcomes of the modern sedentary lifestyle is increased cases of obesity and being overweight. While excessive body weight reduces the chances of a woman getting pregnant, it increases the risk of developing abnormal sperm in men. Try these Natural Home Remedies to Lose Weight.
Stress: Stress and anxiety may be caused due to various reasons; it might be related to work or personal problems. But chronic mental stress for a prolonged period has been shown to affect female ovulation and sperm production thereby reducing the chances of conception.
Sexually Transmitted Infections: Sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can affect both male and female fertility. These infections damage the female fallopian tubes and inflame the scrotum in men.
Causes of Infertility in Women
Problems in ovulation are among the most common reasons for female infertility. It may also be caused by failure of the ovary to produces eggs, hormonal imbalance and damaged ovary.
One of the most common causes of infertility in women is dysfunction of the two important hormones- follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These two hormones are produced by the pituitary gland during a specific period during each menstrual cycle which induces ovulation. The complex balance of these hormones can be disrupted due to excessive physical or emotional stress and sudden weight loss or weight gain that in turn disrupts the periodic process of ovulation. Try these Simple Stress Buster Exercises.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS or Polycystic ovary syndrome is yet another major cause of anovulation caused by changes in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland which results in hormonal imbalance. In Polycystic ovary syndrome, the production of FSH reduces while levels of LH either remain normal or increases. All these conditions lead to premature development of ovarian follicles where an egg cannot mature properly. Cysts can also be detected in the follicle in certain cases.
Damaged fallopian tube or blockage is yet another cause of female infertility. The blockage may be caused due to pelvic inflammatory disease or sexually transmitted infections of the uterus that blocks the sperms from reaching the egg. The fallopian tube may also be damaged due to certain previous surgeries of the abdomen such as surgery for ectopic pregnancy. Another common cause of tubal infertility is pelvic tuberculosis.
Physical damage or infection of the ovaries may also be a reason for infertility in women. Multiple, extensive and invasive surgeries of the ovary for removing ovarian cysts damages and scars the ovarian capsules to such an extent that it hinders the proper maturation of the follicles that prevents ovulation and leads to infertility.
Endometriosis can be defined as the abnormal growth of uterine tissue outside the uterus. This abnormal growth affects the ovaries, uterus, eggs and fallopian tubes and also blocks the passage of the sperm to the eggs. Laparoscopy for infertility can be used to identify the growth, and it can be removed surgically. But surgical removal has its risks because it might scar the tube and affect the lining of the uterus.
Chronic abdominal diseases and bacterial and viral infections can also lead to female infertility. Most of the infections are caused by sexually transmitted bacteria and viruses that lead to inflammation, scarring and damage of the fallopian tube. Abdominal diseases such as chronic colitis or appendicitis damage the abdominal cavity which also leads to scarring and blockage of the fallopian tubes.
Causes of Infertility in Men
Male infertility refers to a condition in which a male fails to cause pregnancy to a fertile female. The most common reason for male fertility is low sperm production and low quality of the semen.
Low Sperm Production
One of the most common causes of male infertility is low sperm count in which the testes produce fewer number of sperm than normal and the sperm that are produced are of low quality and weak that don’t work effectively. The most common reasons for low sperm count are infection, stress and dysfunction of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands that produce the male sex hormones. About two-thirds of male infertility cases are due to low sperm production and low quality of sperms.
Testicular infections, mainly sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea also affect sperm production and sperm quality. These infections scar and block the tube that helps in sperm transportation. It also leads to inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis) and inflammation of testicles that cause heavy testicular damage. But in most cases sperm can be recovered and used in assisted reproductive techniques.
Problem in Sperm Transport
Problem of sperm transport is the second most common cause of infertility in men. The tubes that carry the sperms from the testes to the penis might be damages due to injury or illness, or it might be blocked which cuts out the flow of the sperms. Those suffering from cystic fibrosis may also face the problem with sperm transport. One in every five male infertility cases is caused due to this problem.
Another, less common cause of male infertility is hormonal problems. At times, the pituitary gland fails to send the right signal to the testicles that cause lower production of testosterone (male hypogonadism) and lack of sperm production by the testes. Abnormalities in other hormonal systems such as the pituitary, hypothalamus and adrenal glands also affect fertility in men.
A varicocele is most common treatable cause of infertility. It is a condition of scrotal abnormality in which the veins of the testicle that drain it is dilated and swell up thereby preventing the natural cooling of the testicle. Increased temperature of the scrotum is directly related to reduced sperm count and immobility of sperms. This situation can be treated to normalize sperm movement and improve sperm count.
Surgeries or Injury
Prolonged treatment and medication for certain diseases, radiotherapy or surgery for hernia or correcting testicular deformities such as undescended testes or twisted testicles may cause infertility in men. Severe injury to the testicles during sport or a blow to it during a fight can cause permanent damage the testicles by cutting out blood supply thus disrupting the mechanism of sperm production.
Stay aware about causes of infertility but don’t worry about them because there are several high-end infertility tests for both men and women through which the problem can be diagnosed in no time and treated effectively.
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