For many, baby-making seems to be as easy as getting to bed and getting the act done. A lot of resources have been invested in the area of pregnancy, including education on how to prevent unwanted pregnancy once we become sexually active. But majority of couples battling against infertility will disagree that becoming pregnant has to do with just shelving birth control.
According to Doctor Jamie Grifo who owns an infertility treatment clinic, best decisions are made with an understanding of the extent to which infertility can impact your life.
Is Infertility that common?
The definition of infertility is a year of trying to have a baby with no veil. Research shows that one out of every six couples is affected by infertility.
Getting pregnant in reality is much harder than what many of us assume, says Grifo.
There was a time when infertility was viewed to be primarily a woman’s problem of which that isn’t the case. Both genders battle with infertility issues. 30% of male factors and 30% of female factors play a role in infertility with the remaining 40% being as a result of unexplained problems.
What causes infertility in women?
One of the major reasons for infertility in women is irregular menstrual cycle. Infrequent or absent periods, prolonged bleeding, ‘spotting’ during periods all make it hard to predict when ovulation is likely to happen so that a couple can make a baby.
Some other causes of infertility include diseases and conditions. Smoking and weight have a role to play. Smoking affects ovulation thereby lowering the likelihood of a woman getting pregnant. There is also a high rate of miscarriage amongst women who smoke. Data shows that being overweight or underweight accounts for 12% of all cases.
But most experts are of the opinion that age is the main cause of female infertility. Grifo says that a quick look at the infertility curves shows “about a 50% decline in the ability for a woman to get pregnant from age 30 to 40 and every two years [after 40] it is cut in half. Then pretty much by the age of 44 anyone who is achieving pregnancy is using an egg donor and not talking about it. Very few women over the age of 44 get pregnant with their own eggs.”
Age is significant since the number of female eggs decreases as the woman gains more years. On the other hand, men are ever producing fresh sperms in 3 months. Therefore, their reproductive cells are ever young and healthier.
What causes infertility in men?
Blockages in the tentacles and hormone imbalances are the most common causes of infertility in men. In all reported cases of infertility, about 20 percent of these are due to obstructions in the tubes that transports sperms from testicles to the pennies.
10% to 15% of male infertility cases are due to complete lack of sperms, while malformed sperms and low sperm count being responsible for some other cases. There are also physical issues like the failure of testicles to drop, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, injuries to the testicles and enlargement of scrotum veins.
Ejaculatory issues may be as a result of low blood flow while diabetes accounts for erectile dysfunction. Sperm count can also be impacted by thyroid issues while hormones on the other hand may hinder sperm production.
And even if the testicles were to produce sperms correctly, factors like how well the sperms move can be of significant impact. They may swim too slowly or fail to swim at all, dying before they can get to the female egg.
How can some of these infertility issues be addressed?
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development explain that women experiencing infertility due to ovulation issues stand a high chance of benefiting from fertility treatments.
For a woman not ovulating at all, there are oral medicines that trigger ovulation. There are also injection options. If ovulation is the only problem, then treatment can be done effectively.
There are surgical treatments for infertility but the success of these isn’t guaranteed.
If a couple is unsuccessful with meds and surgical options, they may rely on assisted reproductive technology (ART). An Intrauterine insemination (IUI) tube may be placed into the woman’s uterus through which sperms are passed to meet the female egg. This is an effective way to treat men with low sperm count, difficulties with sperm mobility, erection dysfunction. It can also be used for women with cervical defects or scarring.
Alternatively, In-vitro fertilization (IVF) can be used. In this case, a sperm and egg is removed from each parent and combined in a laboratory. The success of IVF is affected by lifestyle factors, BMI and reproductive history.
Once these techniques have been tried out but didn’t work as intended, the couples may include a third-party to donate egg or sperm. Sperms banks have been with us for years and now there is also the new trend of egg banks. However, these aren’t picking up faster because most women want their own eggs. For a better chance of getting a baby in old age, women are freezing their own eggs which they can use later on in future. This is costly, but so is egg donation.
The customary solution to infertility for most couples has been adoption. By reaching a common agreement, the couple can make arrangements to adopt an orphaned child as their own.