How To Prevent Infertility? Types, Causes, And Treatment

What Is Infertility?

Infertility is when partners are not able to conceive a baby successfully despite having regular, unprotected intercourse for at least 12 months. Some couples are successful and can get pregnant right away, but for others, it can take longer.

 If you and your partner have not been able to conceive naturally after a year of trying, it may be a good idea to see a fertility specialist.

Infertility can have many causes and may be due to an issue with either you, your partner or a collective combination of factors that prevent pregnancy. sometimes one partner cannot contribute to conception, other times a woman is unable to carry a pregnancy to full term.

It has been reported that around 1 in 7 couples may have difficulty conceiving, but many safe and effective therapies can considerably increase your chances of getting pregnant.

Types Of Infertility

There are 2 types of infertility:

  1. Primary Infertility: occurs when someone who has never conceived a child before, now has difficulty conceiving.
  2. Secondary Infertility:  occurs when someone has had 1 or more pregnancies in the past but is having difficulty conceiving again.

Causes Of Infertility

Issues that lead to infertility can be present from birth, or sometimes can develop later in life through different risk factors.

For a couple to get pregnant and have a successful conception, all the steps through ovulation and fertilization need to happen accurately; therefore, infertility cause can affect either one or both of the partners.

Generally, in infertility cases:

  • In about 1/3 of the cases, there’s an issue with the male partner
  • In about 1/3 of the cases, there’s an issue with the female partner
  • And in the remaining 1/3 of the cases, there are usually problems with both the man and the woman, and other times unknown complications are the reason for infertility.

Causes Of Male Infertility

Male infertility is usually associated with the following:

  • Low sperm count (A sperm count of under 15 million is considered low)
  • Abnormal sperm production
  • Low Sperm mobility: Where the sperms cannot ‘swim’ efficiently to reach the egg
  • Abnormal shape of the sperm

A range of different, medical conditions, and medications, and risk factors can also affect fertility in men.

Medical Conditions:

  • Undescended testicles
  • Genetic defects such as cystic fibrosis
  • Structural problems such as a blockage in the testicle
  • Health conditions such as diabetes
  • Infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, mumps or HIV
  • Enlarged and swollen veins in the testes (varicocele)
  • Hormonal Imbalance such as low production of testosterone

Risk Factors

Risk factors associated with infertility in men include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Older age
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Heavy use and abuse of alcohol
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Exposure to toxins, such as pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals
  • Frequent exposure to heat, such as in saunas or hot tubs which can raise the body temperature and affect sperm production

Other Medications and Drugs

Different medications and drugs can also affect male fertility, such as:

  • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy, which is used for cancer treatment
  • Calcium channel blockers, which are used for high blood pressure
  • Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine, Azulfidine en-tabs), which is used for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or ulcerative colitis (UC)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Anabolic steroids, which are used for improved athletic performance or hormonal issues such as delayed puberty
  • Recreational drugs such as marijuana and cocaine

Causes Of Female Infertility

Female infertility can be caused by a variety of complications that affect or interfere with the following biological processes:

  • Ovulation, when the mature egg is released from the ovary
  • Fertilization, which occurs when sperm meets the egg in the fallopian tube after traveling through the cervix and uterus
  • Implantation, which occurs when a fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus where it can then grow and develop into a baby
Uterine Fibroid

Medical Conditions

A range of different medical conditions can affect the female reproductive system and cause infertility in women.

These include:

  • Ovulation disorders, which influence the function of the ovaries and obstruct the release of eggs. Hormonal disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Hyperprolactinemia, and either Hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone production), or Hypothyroidism (not enough thyroid hormone production), are all examples for ovulation disorders.  
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), normally due to STDs, adhesions, or endometriosis.
  • Endometriosis,  occurring when endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus. This condition may affect how the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes function.
  • Uterine or cervical abnormalities, which include anomalies with the cervix, polyps in the uterus, or the shape of the uterus.

Benign (non-cancerous) tumors in the uterine wall (also called uterine fibroids) may cause infertility by obstructing the fallopian tubes or blocking a fertilized egg from attaching itself to the uterine wall.

  • Premature ovarian failure (early menopause) when the ovaries stop working, and menstruation ends before age 40.

The causes for early menopause are largely unknown, however, specific factors such as immune system diseases, genetic disorders including Turner syndrome or carriers of Fragile X syndrome, and radiation or chemotherapy treatment, can be linked to increasing early menopause risks.

  • Pelvic adhesions, bands of scar tissue that bind organs that can form after pelvic infection, appendicitis, endometriosis, or abdominal or pelvic surgery.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for female infertility include:

  • Increasing age
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Heavy use of alcohol
  • Being overweight, obese, or significantly underweight
  • Exercise issues, which contributes to being underweight or overweight
  • Having certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can damage the reproductive system

Other Medications and Drugs

Various medications and drugs that may cause female infertility include:

  • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Long-term use of high-dosage nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin (Bayer) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • Antipsychotic medications
  • Recreational drugs such as marijuana and cocaine

Symptoms Of Infertility

The main symptom of infertility is not being able to get pregnant after frequent unprotected sexual intercourse.

While symptoms vary, there may be no other obvious signs. For some women with infertility issues, they may have irregular or no menstrual periods.

For men, those with infertility may experience some signs of hormonal issues. These can be changes in sexual function or hair growth.

Diagnosis And Testing

If you and your partner have been having issues with conception despite trying frequently, for at least 12 months, it may be time to visit a specialist.

Men should talk to a doctor if they have:

  • A low sperm count or other problems with sperm
  • Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
  • A history of testicular, prostate or sexual problems
  • Undergone treatment for cancer
  • Small testicles or swelling in the scrotum
  • Family history with infertility complications

When visiting your doctor, they will perform a physical examination where they check your genitals for any structural abnormalities or lumps.

In addition, your specialist will take your medical history. During this time, you will be asked about your overall health, your sexual history, and factors such as medical conditions or illnesses that could affect your fertility.

A semen analysis will likely then be performed. Your doctor will ask you to provide a sample of semen. This sample will then be checked in a laboratory to see how many sperm are present and determine whether the sperm are shaped and moving properly.

Your doctor might suggest performing additional tests depending on the results of your initial semen analysis and exam.

These tests may include:

  • Hormone testing
  • Genital ultrasound
  • Genetic testing

Women should talk to a doctor earlier if they:

  • Are 35 or older and have been trying to conceive for six months or longer
  • Are over age 40
  • Have irregular/absent or very painful periods
  • Have been diagnosed with endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease or other fertility problems
  • Have had multiple miscarriages
  • Have undergone treatment for cancer

A woman’s fertility begins to decrease after the age of 30. Women under 35 should visit a doctor after one year of trying to get pregnant while women 35 and over should visit a doctor after 6 months of trying.

For your consult, your doctor will first take your full medical history. They will ask about the current state of your health, your sexual history, and any medical conditions or illnesses that could result in infertility.

After that, your doctor will examine your pelvic area to check for any abnormalities such as fibroids or conditions such as endometriosis or PID.

To determine whether you are ovulating every month, your specialist will test you’re your blood at the office. This can also be done through an at-home ovulation testing kit.

Your doctor may also perform an ultrasound to evaluate the ovaries and uterus.

Some other common tests for women include:

  • Hysterosalpingography, which is a type of X-ray used to examine the fallopian tubes and uterus
  • Laparoscopy, in which a camera is used to examine the internal organs
  • Ovarian reserve testing, which uses a combination of hormone tests to determine a woman’s potential for conceiving — relevant tests include the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) test

Infertility Treatments

The type of treatment that’s recommended by your doctor will depend on a range of different factors, including:

  • The cause of infertility, if known
  • You and your partner’s ages
  • The duration of time which you have been unsuccessful in trying to conceive
  • The overall health, and medical history of both you and your partner
  • The personal preferences of you and your partner, following a consultation about your treatment options

 

Treatments For Men

Male infertility can be treated in a variety of ways, depending on the cause. Treatment options for men can include surgery, medication, and assisted reproductive technology (ART).

Surgery can fix complications and blockages that are preventing sperm from being present in the ejaculate. It can also correct conditions such as varicocele.

Medications can be used to treat conditions that can affect male fertility, such as erectile dysfunction (ED) or infections that affect sperm count. They can also treat other problems relating to infertility such as hormonal imbalances.

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, direct extraction from the testicles, or a donor.

 

 

Treatments For Women

The treatment for female infertility can also involve surgery, medication, and reproductive assistance such as ART. Sometimes several types of treatment are needed to help address female infertility.

Surgery can improve fertility by:

  • correcting an abnormally shaped uterus
  • removing fibroids
  • correcting obstructed fallopian tubes

Although surgery can sometimes be used to treat female infertility, it has become rarer now due to advancements in other fertility treatments.

Reproductive assistance can involve methods such as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) – where millions of sperm are injected into a woman’s uterus near the time of ovulation, and ART.

 IVF is one type of ART that is done by removing the eggs from the female, and then fertilizing them with a man’s sperm in a laboratory. After fertilization, the embryo(the mix of egg and sperm) is placed back into the uterus.

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

Prevention

Some types of infertility aren’t preventable, however, several measures and strategies can improve your chances of pregnancy.

Men

  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which may affect male infertility.
  • Avoid the use of drug and tobacco
  • Avoid high temperatures found in hot tubs, saunas, and hot baths, since they can affect sperm production and motility.
  • Do not expose yourself to industrial or environmental toxins, as these can permanently affect sperm production.
  • Modify medications that may influence your fertility, both prescription and also over the counter drugs. Discuss with your doctor which medications you take regularly, and remember not to stop taking prescription medications without medical advice.
  • Maintain a moderate exercise plan. Frequent exercise can increase sperm quality and raise your chances of having a successful pregnancy.

 

 

Women

For women, several factors can improve the chances of becoming pregnant:

  • Avoid/quit smoking. Not only is tobacco use significantly harmful to you and the fetus’s health, but it also has many negative effects on fertility. If you smoke and are considering getting pregnant, you should stop and avoid smoking altogether. 
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and the use of unprescribed drugs. These substances may impair your ability to conceive and have a healthy successful pregnancy. Avoid using drugs like marijuana, and quit drinking alcohol, if you’re trying to get pregnant.
  • Limit caffeine. Women trying to get pregnant are advised to cut down on caffeine intake. Talk with your doctor about the safe use of caffeine.
  • Exercise frequently. Regular exercise is important for both you and your baby’s health. Just remember not to push yourself to the point where your periods get irregular or absent and affect fertility.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Hormone production can be influenced if you are overweight or underweight, and in result, cause infertility.

Bottom Line

Being diagnosed with infertility can be emotionally draining, both for you and for your partner. However, it doesn’t mean that your dreams of having a child have come to an end.

It may take some time, but several couples who experience infertility will eventually be able to conceive a child and carry a full-term pregnancy. Some will do so on their own, while others will need medical assistance.

Depending on the cause of infertility, or your personal preferences, you can decide whether you want to undergo any specific treatments, Including frozen embryo transfers, IVF, IUI, etc.  

You can choose the best infertility treatment plans we offer.

Also if you are undecided and have doubts or questions about your condition and/or treatment, you can always ask our experts for a free medical consultation.

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