Infertility

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Infertility

A person is diagnosed as infertile if they have been trying to conceive a baby for over a year (6 months, if above the age of 35 years) with no positive results. Even women who were able to get pregnant but could not carry the pregnancy to term are deemed infertile (secondary infertility). But contrary to popular belief in India, women are not the only ones who face infertility, men can be infertile too. Men should plan to see a doctor after one year of trying to conceive or if they frequently experience erectile dysfunction (ED), problems with ejaculation, low sex drive or pain/swelling in the genital area.

Male infertility is when a man has one or more of the following problems:

  • Lowered sperm production
  • Low or no sperm count
  • Irregular shaped sperm
  • Slow or no motility of sperm

There are a variety of risk factors, medical conditions and medications that can affect male fertility. These include:

  • Increasing age
  • Habits like smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Exposure to toxins, such as pesticides and heavy metals
  • Varicocele (swelling of the veins around the testicles)
  • Undescended testicles and other physical abnormalities
  • Hormonal imbalance, such as low testosterone
  • Some medication and even overuse of recreational drugs

Female infertility is when a woman faces issues in one or more of the following processes:

  • Ovulation
  • Fertilisation
  • Implantation

There are a variety of risk factors, medical conditions and medications that can affect male fertility. These include:

  • Increasing age
  • Habits like smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Having ovulation disorders like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Genetic history
  • Scarring from previous surgery
  • Certain medication and even overuse of recreational drugs

For men, a semen analysis is likely to be performed. Depending on the results, the doctor may suggest doing hormone testing, genital ultrasound and/or genetic testing. For women, a thorough examination of the pelvic area to check for abnormalities like fibroids and endometriosis is first done. An ultrasound of the ovaries and uterus will also be done followed by relevant hormone testing and genetic testing.

The type of treatment recommended can depend on many factors, including:

  • The cause of infertility
  • How long the person has been trying to conceive
  • Age
  • Overall health of both partners

Medication can be used to treat infertility caused by hormonal imbalances. They can also treat conditions like ED and infections that lower sperm count and motility. Surgery can fix conditions like varicocele, blockages and fibroids.

One of the most common treatment options offered is Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). In this method, the eggs and sperm are handled outside of the body. It includes treatments such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and intrauterine insemination (IUI).

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