Over the past few decades, along with other health issues, infertility has been identified as one of the most common issue that a large number of couples have been facing. Parenthood is an important milestone in the life of every couple.
Children add joy and warmth in our lives and every couple dreams of holding their own bundles of joy. The rate of infertility has been increasing steadily from 4 -6 percent in 1981 to 10 – 14 percent most recently. More and more couples are facing infertility and are opting for Assisted Reproductive Techniques. There has also been a tremendous shift in the social stigma which associated infertility with only women. People have become more aware that infertility is something that can affect both men and women.
What is infertility?
Infertility can be defined as the inability to conceive even after trying for one year or more. A couple is said to be infertile when they fail to conceive after trying for a year without any contraceptives. Infertility is not something that occurs only in women, it also occurs in the male partner. In a couple facing infertility, sometimes only of the partners is infertile or it can be both as well.
Causes of Infertility
Female Infertility :
- Ovulation disorders: Essentially, a mature egg needs to be released by the ovaries in a woman, in order to conceive. But due to hormonal disorders such as PCOS, thyroid or prolactin hormone imbalance can hinder the ovulation process resulting in the inability of the ovaries to release the egg in a periodic cycle.
- Endometriosis: This is medical condition under which the endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus. This abnormal growth brings down the chances of conceiving as it affects the functioning of not only the ovaries but also the uterus and fallopian tubes.
- Pelvic adhesions: These are bands of scar tissue which bind organs and are formed after pelvic infection, pelvic tuberculosis, appendicitis, endometriosis, or abdominal or pelvic surgery. These adhesions distort the normal pelvic anatomy and thus hinder the fertilization process.
- Fallopian tube obstruction / damage: This usually ranges from mild adhesions to complete blockage of the tubes which will prevent the fertilization of the egg released, with the sperm. Pelvic infections, previous abdominal surgeries, pelvic inflammatory disease etc. are the common causes for this.
- Uterine / Cervical abnormalities: Along with abnormalities in the cervix and polyps in the uterus, tumors in the uterine wall may also be source of infertility as it blocks the fallopian tubes and prevents the fertilization of the egg or stops the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
- Atypical production of sperm / function: This abnormality in function can be due to undescended testicles and genetic diseases. It can also be caused due to health problems such as diabetes, or infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, mumps or HIV. The quality and quantity of sperm produced is also compromised when a person has varicocele, a condition in which the veins in the testes are enlarged.
- Smoking and addictive elements: The prolonged use of substances such as nicotine, alcohol and various other addictive drugs causes imbalance in the body, distorts the sperm development and motility, and also leads to the deterioration of the quality of sperm for fertilization.
- Defects of tubules transporting the sperm: The different tubes that carry the sperm can sometimes be blocked due to various reasons such as, injury from a surgery, infections in the past, abnormal development such as cysts etc.
Age factor: This factor contributes towards infertility in both the cases of men and women. As the age increases the reproductive potential of both men and women declines gradually.