Infertility is the inability to conceive a child after one year of unprotected sex. Women aged 35 years or older may consider evaluation and treatment after 6 months of trying to conceive. Impaired fecundity, which refers to difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, affects about 26% of women in this group. Infertility can result from problems with several steps in the pregnancy process, including ovulation, fertilisation, and implantation.
Infertility is not always a woman's problem, as both men and women can contribute to infertility. For men, infertility can be caused by factors such as disruption of testicular or ejaculatory function, varicocele, trauma to the testes, heavy alcohol or drug use, cancer treatment, medical conditions like diabetes or cystic fibrosis, hormonal disorders, and genetic disorders like Klinefelter's syndrome. Semen analysis can help determine if and how male factors are contributing to infertility. Women can also experience infertility due to factors such as age, ovulation disorders, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, uterine or cervical abnormalities, and tubal blockages.
Common risk factors and lifestyle factors that can contribute to infertility
Infertility is a common issue that affects many couples. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including lifestyle and medical conditions. Here are some common risk factors and lifestyle factors that can contribute to infertility:
- Age: As women age, their fertility declines, and the risk of infertility increases. Women over 35 years of age are at higher risk of infertility.
- Smoking: Smoking can damage the reproductive system and reduce fertility in both men and women.
- Alcohol consumption: Heavy alcohol consumption can cause fertility problems in both men and women.
- Being overweight or underweight: Both being overweight and underweight can affect fertility in women. In men, obesity can lead to a decrease in testosterone levels, which can affect sperm production.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Certain STIs can cause infertility in both men and women if left untreated.
- Medical conditions: Medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, diabetes, and thyroid disease can affect fertility in women.
- Medications: Some medications can affect fertility in both men and women.
It's important to note that infertility is a complex issue, and there can be many factors that contribute to it. If you're struggling with infertility, it's important to seek help from a reproductive endocrinologist who can provide a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Seeking Help: The Infertility Journey
The initial realisation of infertility can be a devastating experience for individuals or couples. It may evoke feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, and shame. Some may feel like they have failed or that their bodies have failed them. It is important to approach infertility as a couple's problem and to become educated on the medical and emotional components of infertility. Finding support and opportunities to talk about the experience with others who understand is crucial.
Importance of seeking medical help and the role of healthcare providers
Diagnostic tests and evaluations to determine the cause of infertility
- Infertility is a complex medical condition that requires professional help.
- Seeking medical assistance provides access to a range of treatment options, including identifying underlying causes of infertility, assisted reproductive technologies, and emotional support.
- Healthcare providers involved in the infertility journey include gynaecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, and fertility specialists.
- Gynaecologists can diagnose and treat common causes of infertility, while reproductive endocrinologists specialise in hormonal disorders affecting fertility.
- Fertility specialists provide advanced treatments such as in vitro fertilisation.
- Seeking professional help can help individuals navigate the emotional toll of infertility and provide personalised care.
- It is essential to understand the importance of seeking medical help to achieve the best possible outcome and support during this journey.
- Doctors perform diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of infertility in couples.
- These tests can include blood tests, semen analysis, ultrasound scans, and hysterosalpingography.
- Doctors may also conduct a physical exam, review medical history, and perform genetic testing.
- Infertility can be emotionally challenging for couples, and doctors should approach the diagnostic process with empathy and support.
- Once a diagnosis is made, doctors can recommend a range of treatment options, including fertility drugs, surgery, and assisted reproductive technologies like IVF or IUI.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)
Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are available for individuals and couples struggling with infertility. ART involves treatments that use sperm and an egg. In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is one of the most common ART options. IVF involves retrieving eggs from the ovaries and fertilising them with sperm in a lab. Embryos are then transferred to the uterus. IVF success
rates vary and are dependent on factors such as patient characteristics and clinic eligibility requirements. Success rates can be compared using reporting services like the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). Other ART options include intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), which involves injecting a single sperm into an egg, and intrauterine insemination (IUI), which involves placing sperm directly into the uterus. Donor eggs or sperm may also be used in ART, as well as gestational surrogacy. Patients may travel across borders to seek ART services due to legal or financial barriers in their home country. It is important to discuss success rates and options with a reproductive endocrinologist to determine the best course of action.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) and its various procedures
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a common assisted reproductive technology used to treat infertility. The process involves several steps. Firstly, hormonal medication is given to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs. The eggs are then retrieved through a minor surgical procedure, while the male partner provides a semen sample. The eggs and sperm are then combined in the laboratory for fertilisation. The resulting embryos are monitored for several days, and the healthiest ones are selected for transfer to the woman's uterus.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and other advanced techniques
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection
(ICSI) is a procedure used in Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) to overcome male infertility. It involves the injection of a single sperm into a retrieved egg, which is then implanted in the woman's uterus. ICSI is beneficial for men with low sperm count, poor sperm motility, or abnormal sperm shape. However, it is not a guarantee of success, and there is still a chance of failed fertilisation or genetic abnormalities. Other advanced ART techniques include in vitro fertilisation (IVF), intrauterine insemination
(IUI), and intracytoplasmic morphologically selected sperm injection (IMSI). IVF involves the harvesting of a sperm and egg from each partner, which are then combined in a laboratory and implanted in the woman's uterus. IUI involves the insertion of sperm directly into the uterine cavity. IMSI is similar to ICSI, but involves the selection of high-quality sperm using a high-powered microscope. While these techniques offer hope for couples struggling with infertility, they also come with risks and limitations, and should be carefully considered with the guidance of a reproductive endocrinologist.
Preimplantation genetic testing and embryo selection
Preimplantation genetic testing
(PGT) is a technique used in assisted reproductive technologies (ART) to screen embryos for genetic abnormalities before implantation. PGT involves removing a cell or cells from an embryo created through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and analyzing its DNA for specific genetic conditions. PGT can detect a range of genetic disorders, including chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, single gene disorders like cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia, and sex-linked disorders like hemophilia. This information can aid in the selection of healthy embryos for implantation, reducing the risk of passing on genetic disorders to offspring. However, the use of PGT for selective reproduction, such as choosing the sex of the embryo or selecting for certain traits, raises ethical concerns about eugenics and designer babies. Additionally, there are concerns about the potential for PGT to reinforce gender biases and preferences, as seen in the increasing demand for sex-selective PGT in certain regions.
Other ART options such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and donor gametes
For couples facing infertility, there are several Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) options available. One of the most common is Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), which involves collecting sperm from the male partner and inserting it directly into the woman's uterus during ovulation. This procedure can increase the chances of conception by placing the sperm closer to the egg and bypassing any potential obstacles.
Another option is the use of donor gametes, either sperm or eggs, which can be used in conjunction with IUI or other ART procedures. Donor gametes offer a genetic connection to the child and can be a viable option for couples or individuals who are unable to conceive with their own gametes.
Coping with Infertility
Infertility can be emotionally and physically draining, and it's important to prioritise your emotional well-being while navigating this complex issue. First and foremost, it's crucial to acknowledge the emotional toll that infertility can take. It's okay to feel overwhelmed, sad, angry, or any other range of emotions. Seeking support from a therapist or joining a support group can be incredibly helpful in processing these emotions and finding ways to cope. Practicing self-care, such as exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep, can also improve your overall well-being.
Advances in infertility treatments and emerging technologies
In recent years, there have been significant advancements in infertility treatments and emerging technologies. In vitro fertilisation (IVF) has been a game-changer for infertile couples, providing hope and promise to millions of parents worldwide. IVF has also given rise to second-generation technologies such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) to overcome male infertility and gestational surrogacy for women who cannot carry a pregnancy in their own uterus. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) of IVF embryos is used to prevent the birth of offspring with heritable disorders, while preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) is used to select embryos of a specific quality or sex. Cryopreservation (freezing) and storage of unused sperm, embryos, oocytes, and ovaries are also available to preserve fertility for those facing cancer or age-related decline in fertility. However, the ethical implications of these technologies must be considered, such as the use of donor gametes and the possibility of human reproductive cloning. Overall, these advancements have brought much-needed hope to infertile couples and expanded the possibilities for family building.
If you are struggling with infertility, it is important to remember that you are not alone. Seeking support, guidance, and professional help can make a world of difference. Milann Fertility Clinic
is a trusted and experienced fertility clinic that offers personalized treatment plans, access to advanced technology and techniques, and a supportive community of experts and fellow patients. With their comprehensive array of infertility evaluation methods and treatment options, Milann Fertility Clinic can help you navigate the challenges of infertility and increase your chances of success. Don't hesitate to reach out and take the first step toward building the family of your dreams. Milann Fertility Clinic is here to help.