What Are the Causes of Infertility and What Are Your Options?

While I've never had issues with infertility, I have many dear friends who've dealt with this issue that can be so painful. Here is some more information to help you learn more.

Infertility affects anywhere between 48 million to 186 million individuals across the world. It is defined as the failure to conceive naturally and become pregnant after 12 months or more of having regular unprotected sexual intercourse.

Despite affecting millions of people worldwide, infertility is one of the hardest things to come to terms with. If you’ve always wanted to start a family, it can be disheartening to learn that you or your partner are infertile.

The amazing advancements in medicine over the past couple of decades have given rise to a range of effective infertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI), and egg or sperm donation. There is also the option of using a surrogacy agency in California to find a suitable surrogate.

In this article, we will go through the risk factors for infertility, the potential causes of infertility, and the treatment options that are available to infertile couples who want to start a family.

Risk Factors for Infertility

Risk Factors for Both Males and Females
The following factors can increase the risk of infertility in both males and females.
  • Being above 35 years of age (females) or 40 years of age (males)
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being underweight or malnourished
  • Having an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa
  • Overexercising
  • Having type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol intake or drug use
  • Smoking
  • Chronic stress
  • Certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Undergoing radiotherapy or chemotherapy

Risk Factors for Females

For females, the additional risk factors include:
  • Amenorrhoea (lack of menstruation)
  • Blocked fallopian tubes
  • Endometriosis
  • Hyperactive or hypoactive thyroid
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or the presence of ovarian cysts
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Celiac disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Ovarian cancer

Risk Factors for Males

In males, the additional risk factors are:
  • Damage to the testes due to heat exposure or tight clothing
  • Injury to the scrotum or testes
  • Low sperm count
  • Low testosterone
  • Excessive use of anabolic steroids
  • Testicular cancer
  • Under developed testes

Causes of Infertility

There are two forms of infertility – primary and secondary. Primary infertility occurs when the individual has never had their own child in the past and they are struggling to conceive. Secondary infertility refers to when an individual has had one or more children but is now struggling to get pregnant.

Due to the complexity of fertilization and pregnancy, there are many different causes of infertility. It can result from problems in either the female or the male, or both partners in the couple.

If any one of the reproductive organs involved in ovulation, egg production, or sperm production is dysfunctional, it can lead to difficulty conceiving.

Causes of Infertility in Females

In females, hormonal or ovulation disorders are by far the most common cause of infertility.

Hormonal problems can result from a range of different factors, including lack of adequate nutrition, over exercise, excessive stress, or problems with the thyroid. Ovulation disorders, including PCOS can be genetic or due to dietary and lifestyle habits.

Blockages or damage to the fallopian tubes can lead to inflammation in the pelvic region and may cause infertility. Damage may result from endometriosis, infection, or tumors.

Causes of Infertility in Males

The most common cause of infertility in males is abnormal or no sperm production. This can lead to either a very low sperm count or a high sperm count but low sperm viability.

Abnormal sperm production can be caused by a genetic problem, a health problem, or a sexually transmitted disease. Enlargement in the veins of the testes, known as varicocele, can also reduce sperm quality.

Overexposure to certain chemicals can damage the reproductive organs in males. For example, smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking certain medications may decrease sperm production or quality.

Another one of the most common causes of infertility in males is damage to any of the reproductive organs through injury or blockage.

Treatment Options for Infertility

There are a lot of different treatment options for couples who are infertile. The exact treatment option will depend on the unique situation, the causes of infertility, and the couple’s preferences.

A team of medical professionals will be able to offer expert guidance to determine which method is the most suitable.

Here are the most common treatment options for infertility.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

In vitro fertilization is one of the most commonly known forms of treatment for infertility. It involves harvesting the egg cells and collecting sperm cells.

The gametes are combined in a petri dish for artificial fertilization. The successfully fertilized embryos are then transferred into the woman’s uterus for implantation.

Intrauterine insemination (IUI)

Intrauterine insemination can be used when egg harvesting is not required. The sperm cells are collected from the male and the seminal fluid is removed.

The sperm cells are inserted directly into the woman’s uterus using a thin tube during ovulation in the hopes of conception.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

This method is similar to IVF but it is used when the male in the couple is infertile. During intracytoplasmic sperm injection, eggs are harvested and a single spent cell is injected into each one by a professional technician.
Successful embryos are inserted into the uterine lining for implantation so that the woman can carry the pregnancy to term and give birth as she would have in a naturally conceived pregnancy.

Third Party Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART)

Another treatment method for infertile couples is egg, sperm, or embryo donation. This may or may not require a gestational surrogate to carry the baby to term.

Eggs, sperm, and embryos can be obtained from banks. Donors may be identified or anonymous. Couples may have the option to choose certain characteristics in the embryo, such as eye color, hair color, IQ.

Penniless Parenting

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