Health care

What is Infertility? Possible Causes of Infertility in Men and Women

What is infertility

The inability of a couple to conceive biologically and naturally even after multiple tries is called infertility. Since the dawn of mankind, we have developed defense mechanisms against numerous diseases, but still, infertility is on the rise. Apart from humans, all types of animals (including) birds are going through the same. Infertility is spreading in all species at different rates. In the past two decades, infertility has risen at a significant rate. Infertility treatment in India has also gained a lot of respect around the globe. Today, some biologists have even stated that this can be the reason for extinction in humans.

In current times, on average, one in six couples is infertile. An infertile couple means either one is infertile, both of them are infertile, or if there’s unexplained infertility. Another alarming situation is the early onset of puberty. Young girls are experiencing menstrual at a very young age, as if seven to nine. These girls who experience early menstrual, are expected to experience menopause early too (like their late thirties).

On average, it takes 5-7 months for a couple to conceive. They shouldn’t be concerned if it takes even more than a few months (for couples below 35). For couples below and above 35, if they have been engaging in unprotected coitus, for more than a year/six months respectively, then physicians will suggest they have fertility examination. Currently, fertility clinics and centers in India are in high demand. In this blog, we will be sharing certain medical conditions that might be preventing the couple from being fertile.

Symptoms of infertility:

Usually, a couple will understand when they are not able to conceive. Apart from these, there are many other symptoms. During infertility, a man may face hormonal problems like hair growth or sexual function. While a woman facing infertility will experience irregular or no menstrual at all.

For women, they should talk with a doctor when they experience any of the below:

  • Below thirty-five and haven’t been able to conceive in a year, above thirty-five and have been trying to conceive for six months or longer
  • If they are thinking to get pregnant after 40, then it’s mandatory
  • When they face irregular or no periods
  • If periods are very painful
  • Have known fertility problems
  • Have had multiple miscarriages
  • Have undergone treatment for cancer
  • For men, they should talk to a doctor when:
  • They have had a history of testicular, prostate or sexual problems
  • They have undergone cancer treatment
  • They have small testicles, or there’s swelling in the scrotum
  • There have been others in their family with infertility problems
  • They feel any kind of irritation or pain while urinating or ejaculating.

Causes of infertility

Issues that can affect fertility, generally get developed over life, rarely they are present since birth. As read above, infertility can be caused to either one or both:

  • There’s an issue with the female partner in about one-third of cases.
  • There’s an issue with the male partner in about one-third of cases.
  • In the remaining cases, issues are there in both, or no cause could be found.

Causes of male infertility

These are the issues that are prevalent in the male partners since birth or get developed during their life. They are regarding sperm quality, ejaculation, and sperm production. These may include:

  • Abnormal sperm production or function– This arises due to undescended testicles, genetic defects, diseases like diabetes, or infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, mumps, or HIV. The sperm can also be affected by enlarged veins in the testes (varicocele).
  • Problems with the delivery of sperm– It is the most common type of sexual problem. These problems include premature ejaculation, genetic diseases (like cystic fibrosis), structural problems (as in blockage in the testicle), or damage/injury to the reproductive organs.
  • Overexposure to some environmental factors– Our body organs react differently to different things. This is the reason why male reproductive organs are outside the body because they don’t require heat. The frequent exposure of pesticides, other chemicals, and radiation also affects them. Other than this, cigarette smoking, alcohol, marijuana, anabolic steroids, and taking medications (for treating bacterial infections, high blood pressure, and depression) are also harmful to fertility.
  • Damage related to cancer and its treatment– Radiation or chemotherapy treatment is harmful to male fertility. Other treatments for cancer can also weaken sperm production.

Causes of female infertility

Female infertility can be affected by many things it relates to the health of egg, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and uterus. There can be many disorders, diseases, deficiencies, and hormonal imbalance that can cause it.

  • Ovulation disorders– These are related to the egg release from the ovaries. Ovulation disorders happen due to various reasons/conditions: Hormonal disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS/PCOD- Cysts are formed in ovaries), Hyperprolactinemia-a condition in which females produce too much prolactin (Hormone that stimulates breast milk production), and high/low production of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism/hypothyroidism respectively). The other underlying causes include too much exercise, eating disorders, or tumors.
  • Uterine or cervical abnormalities– These are abnormalities with the cervix, polyps in the uterus, or the shape of the uterus. The noncancerous tumors (benign) in the uterine wall (uterine fibroids) can cause infertility by blocking the fallopian tubes or stopping a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
  • Fallopian tube damage or blockage– This can happen because of inflammation of the fallopian tube (called salpingitis). This can be a result of pelvic inflammatory disease, which is usually caused by a sexually transmitted infection, endometriosis, or adhesions.
  • Endometriosis– It is an abnormal growth of endometrial tissue. In this, it grows outside of the uterus, which affects the function of the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes.
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency (early menopause)– We have talked above about this issue. It’s a correct example of how lifestyle and early adolescence are affecting females today. When females reach forty usually their ovaries stop working and menstruation ends, but now has started happening in mid-thirties.
  • Pelvic adhesions– These are the bands of scar tissue that bind organs, they get formed after pelvic infection, appendicitis, endometriosis or abdominal or pelvic surgery.
  • Cancer and its treatment– Cancers in reproductive organs will for sure affect the fertility. Apart from that, radiation and chemotherapy, which are part of all types of cancer treatment affect fertility.

Unexplained Infertility

It is type infertility where the cause hasn’t been identified yet. The reports of all tests are termed normal but still, a couple faces problems in the conception. The doctor can’t even know whether this problem has arisen in males or females as both seem to be normal. This happens because till now we haven’t gathered all the possible reasons for infertility, it’s also a fact that in recent times many new reasons have come into the light for infertility. This can be a new condition that hasn’t been identified yet or a condition that hasn’t been able to be discovered yet.

IVF treatment, IUI treatment, surrogacy, and more are the pregnancy options available for the couple. IVF treatment in India is highly affordable and very effective. Due to this, it has resulted in the rise of medical tourism in India. By now, you know the different reasons for infertility. We have covered all of them.

About Author:

Dr. Priya Banerjee (M.D. (Obs. & Gyn.))

Have been practicing since fifteen years, an online consultant with Femicure, along with it, have writing medical articles and blogs since 10 years. Also an infertility specialist with IVF, IUI, ICSI, and infertility related surgeries.

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