What is Infertility?

Infertility can affect both men and women alike.

For men, infertility can be caused by low production of sperm or blockages in the vas deferens, which are the passageways where sperm travels. Lifestyle choices (such as smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol or caffeine, stress, lack of exercise) and chronic health problems can also contribute to male infertility. Female infertility can be caused by damage to the cervical area and hormonal issues. In some instances, infertility cannot be explained in both men and women.

What are the Symptoms of Infertility?

The only defined symptom of infertility is the inability of the person or persons to conceive a pregnancy. Women with menstrual problems may have a lack of ovulation as a result of those problems. Men may need to go for testing to see if the doctor suspects a possible low sperm count.

With infertility, there really may be zero signs or symptoms that are easily seen.

Infertility Causes

Ovulation disorder is one of the major causes of infertility in women; there are a number of reasons why a woman may experience irregular ovulation. These include hormonal imbalance, use of hormone birth control methods and certain medical conditions, especially those that interfere with the pituitary gland, ovaries, and the follicles.

Low sperm count, on the other hand, is the leading cause of infertility in men. According to experts, anything less than 20 million sperm per mL is considered low sperm count. Low sperm count may occur due to one or a combination of the following: poor lifestyle choices like hard drug abuse, smoking, chronic alcoholism, stress, poor diet, damage to the reproductive organs, genetic predisposition, radiotherapy and anti-sperm antibodies.

Poor sperm health is another common cause of infertility. According to studies, 25% of infertility is attributed to poor sperm health. Most causes of poor sperm health are the same as those for low sperm count.

Female infertility can also be caused by blocked fallopian tubes. Fallopian tube blockage prevents the ova from traveling from the ovaries to the uterus for fertilization. Some of the main causes of fallopian tube blockage include ectopic pregnancy, endometriosis, Pelvic Inflammation Disease and uterine fibroids.

Other causes of infertility include poor egg health, polycystic ovary syndrome and vas deferens blockage.

How is Infertility Treated?

Over the last two decades, fertility treatments have been on the rise in many developed countries. Research has led to treatments which have proven effective, resulting in conception within short periods of time.

Medications to treat female infertility that can encourage ovulation will be prescribed by some fertility specialists. Female infertility can also be treated through surgical procedures on the reproductive areas. In vitro fertilization (IBF) remains the most commonly-known treatment for infertility. In this treatment, a doctor will place eggs fertilized in a controlled environment into the uterus. Upon maturity of the eggs, sperm is then collected, washed, and delivered to the eggs. After a few days, embryos can then be delivered back into the reproductive system.

Male infertility can also be treated with prescription medication to clear up infections or address hormonal issues. Corrective surgery may be suggested to address blockages or other possible issues with the vas deferens. Like In Vitro fertilization treatments, Assisted reproductive technology ART treatments are l involve obtaining sperm through normal ejaculation, surgical extraction or from donor individuals, depending on your specific case and wishes. The sperm are placed into the female genital tract or used to perform in vitro fertilization treatments.

If no treatment is proven to be effective, adoption will be suggested for the persons looking to conceive. Infertility can be a very emotional medical issue to deal with, so it is important to discuss it with your healthcare practitioner in order to find possible solutions.

Infertility Prevention

Unfortunately, some infertility cases are beyond most basic methods of infertility prevention. That said, taking certain life precautions can help you prevent infertility. These involve ceasing the use of any recreational drug. Minimize alcohol and caffeine consumption and these can cause hormonal imbalance.

Minimize your sex partners and practice safe sex at all times to avoid contracting STIs that may compromise your fertility. In the unfortunate event that you contract an STI, seek medical help immediately to avoid irreparable damage to your reproductive system.

There is a strong correlation between weight and fertility. Maintaining a reasonable body weight can help you avoid lifestyle-related conditions like obesity which causes infertility. Next to weight is your diet. Maintain a healthy diet that features fresh fruits and vegetables. Specifically, ensure that your food is rich in folic acid. Also, avoid processed meats at all cost.

Other infertility prevention measures include avoiding exposure to environmental hazards like heavy metals, pesticides, and radiation. Finally, have regular routine physical examinations including pap smears to detect infections in your reproductive system that might cause infertility.

Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
January 25, 2018