What are the causes of infertility in females
In our world today, anyone who is married and has not been able to get pregnant or give birth is seen as infertile. In some parts of the world, women are mostly associated with the term ‘infertile. The truth, however, is that men and women can be infertile. Infertility is a situation or condition whereby a person does not get pregnant after a year of trying.
Men and women can both be infertile, and the cause of infertility varies in women and men. For women, the cause of infertility ranges from diseases of the thyroid to fibroids in the uterus and even endometriosis.
On the other hand, men can experience infertility as a result of low sperm count or as a result of low levels of testosterone. One important thing to note, however, is that the older you get, the more you are at risk of being infertile. If you need the services of a private gynaecologist in London, contact us at Gynae-Clinic London.
What is infertility?
According to studies and results, a couple or individual can be considered infertile if they or that person tries to get pregnant in one year and fails. It is more delicate for women as a woman older than 35 finds it more difficult to conceive than a younger woman. After the age of 35, the time period for conception drops low to six months after she has been diagnosed with infertility.
For women that are over the age of 40, it will require an instant or immediate evaluation. Pay attention to the fact that being infertile does not include miscarriage or not being able to carry a pregnancy full term.
What are the causes of infertility?
As stated earlier, both men and women can be infertile, and the causes can differ in both cases. Nonetheless, there are some worthy points to note with regards to the cause of infertility.
- Reproductive system in males: The cause of infertility is a problem in the reproductive system of the male. This is the case for 1 in 3 men that are infertile.
- Reproductive system in females: The cause of infertility is usually a problem in the female’s reproductive system. This is the case for 1 in 3 infertile women.
- Undetermined or unknown issue: Sometimes, the cause of infertility is yet to be determined. In such cases, the problem affects both the man and the woman, and it is usually the case for 1 in 3 couples dealing with infertility.
Infertility: How common is it?
Studies have shown that an estimated value of 1 in 10 women around the ages of 15 and 44, are having issues with conception. This goes a long way to explain how serious and how common infertility is in the lives of women especially.
Additionally, there are women who face problems during pregnancy, and women who have such problems may end up losing the baby either before the 20th week of the pregnancy or after the 20th week. If the baby is lost before the 20th week, it is termed a miscarriage. If lost after the 20th week, it is referred to as a stillbirth.
Types of infertility
There are two types of infertility, and they can either be primary or secondary.
- Primary infertility: primary infertility is used to describe a situation whereby a woman cannot conceive or get pregnant after one year of trying. It also means that the woman in question must not use birth control for the one year she is trying to conceive, and she must not have been pregnant before.
- Secondary infertility: secondary infertility refers to a situation whereby a woman who has been pregnant before or who has had a successful pregnancy is unable to get pregnant again.
Risk factors associated with infertility for both men and women
Certain factors have been associated with infertility in both men and women. These factors serve as catalysts to increase the infertility risk in anyone irrespective of their gender. They include the following
- Abuse of alcohol
- Advancement in age. Women who are over the age of 35 are at greater risk, and the same applies to men who are over the age of 40
- Abuse of substance
- Cancer treatments like radiation therapy
- Eating problems like anorexia or bulimia
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Exposure to toxins from the environment like pesticides and lead
- Being overweight or underweight
Risk factors associated with infertility in women
Besides the factors that contribute to infertility in both men and women listed above, some factors are exclusive to women. These factors help to increase the risk of infertility in women. They include the following
- Celiac disease
- Kidney problems
- Disease of the thyroid
- Abnormal menstrual cycle
- Obstructed fallopian tubes or oviducts
- Problems with the uterus such as uterine polyps, uterine fibroid and endometriosis
- A previous case of ectopic pregnancy
- Disorder of the pituitary gland
- Polycystic Ovary syndrome
- Pelvic inflammatory disease etc
Risk factors associated with male infertility
Certain factors can be attributed to the cause of infertility in men. These factors include the following
- Misuse or abuse of anabolic steroids
- Testicles that are not descended
- Genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis
- Varicocele or enlarged veins in the scrotum
- Low sperm count
- Low testosterone
- Injury to the testicles or scrotum
- Cancer of the testicles and its treatment
- Retrograde ejaculation or premature ejaculation
Diagnosis of female infertility
Before the diagnosis, there may be certain things you will be asked to do by your doctor or gynaecologist. Some of these things include recording signs of ovulation like the cervical mucus or the temperature of the basal body. Nonetheless, below are the tests that are important when diagnosing female infertility.
- Pelvic examination: a pelvic examination or a pap smear may be performed when diagnosing infertility problems for women. These examinations are meant to check for problems or to lookout for any sign of disease in the body.
- Blood test: to check for the hormone levels and their efficiency, a blood test may be required.
- Transvaginal ultrasound: this is a type of test whereby an ultrasound wand is inserted into the vagina and is used to check for any issues or problems in the reproductive system.
- Hysteroscopy:This is a type of test where a thin, lighted tube is inserted into the vagina, and the uterus is examined through it.
- Saline sonohysterogram: this is a type of test where the uterus or womb is filled with a saline solution such as sterilised saltwater. After the uterus is filled, a transvaginal ultrasound is performed. The full uterus makes it easier for the inside of the uterus to be visible during the ultrasound.
- Hysterosalpingogram (HSG): this type of test is meant to check or look for blockages in the fallopian tubes. It involves the use of x-rays as they capture the image of an injectable dye as it moves through the tubes.
- Laparoscopy: This is the type of test in which a laparoscope is inserted into the body through a small incision in the abdominal region. The laparoscope has a camera attached to it, and it is used to identify problems like fibroids, scar tissue and endometriosis.
Diagnosis of male infertility
These are tests carried out by a healthcare provider, and they are to help with the diagnosis of male infertility. They include the following
- Analysis of semen: like the name implies this test is carried out to check if there is any problem with the sperm. Some problems with sperm can be low sperm count or poor mobility of sperm cells. For some men, the sperm will have to be removed from the testicles through a needle biopsy. The removed sperm is then tested for any defects or problems.
- Blood test: blood tests can be used to check for thyroid levels or testosterone levels. It can also be used to check the levels of other hormones. There are also genetic blood tests, and they are performed to check for any abnormality in the chromosomes.
- Scrotal ultrasound: this is an ultrasound that is performed on the scrotum and is meant to identify problems in the testicles like varicoceles.
Seeking help when you are infertile
You should seek the help of your healthcare provider or a gynaecologist if you are a woman below the age of 35 and you have not been able to get pregnant after a year of trying. If you are older than 35, you should see a physician sooner because you are at greater risk of infertility as you get older. Generally, this means that a 20-year-old woman has a greater chance of getting pregnant than a 35-year-old woman.
Note that men who are also unable to conceive a child with a woman should see their healthcare provider as well, depending on their age.
Treatment of female infertility
There are two ways infertility in women can be treated. It can be either through medications or through surgery.
- Medications: infertility can be treated through the use of fertility drugs. These drugs will change the levels of the female hormones and stimulate ovulation.
- Surgery: infertility in women can be treated through surgery. Fallopian tubes that are blocked can be opened through surgery, and uterine fibroids can be removed through surgery as well. Endometriosis can also be treated through surgery, and it will, in turn, increase the woman’s chances of getting pregnant.
Treatment of male infertility
Male infertility can be treated in two ways. It can either be treated through medications or through surgery
- Medications: infertility in men can be treated through the use of medications.The medications increase the level of male hormones and also increase testosterone levels. For erectile dysfunction, there are medications that can correct it.
- Surgery:Surgery can be a very effective treatment method to open up tubes that have been blocked. The tubes are responsible for carrying and storing sperm. The sperm can be made healthier through varicocele surgery, and this improves the chances of conception.
Treatment options for infertility for both genders
In some cases, some couples may require help with conception. To increase the chances of conception, the woman may have to take certain medications that will stimulate ovulation before any of the following practices will be adopted
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI): this practice involves using a thin, long tube that places sperm cells into the uterus or womb directly.
- In vitro fertilisation (IVF): this is an option that is a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that involves the eggs being harvested at the end of the stimulation period. The eggs and the sperm are then placed together in a lab dish for fertilisation to take place. If successful, one of the eggs is transferred into the uterus or womb.
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): although this practice is similar to IVF, there happen to be a few differences. The process is handled directly by an embryologist, and it involves the injection of single sperm cells into individual harvested eggs. The eggs are then transferred into the uterus when fertilised.
- Third-party ART: This is the practice that involves using a third party like a gestational carrier or a surrogate. It can also involve the use of donor eggs, sperm or donor embryos.
Prevention of infertility
There are certain steps everyone can take to prevent themselves from becoming infertile by protecting their fertility. This is most important when they are trying to get pregnant. These steps include the following
- Exercising but not over-exercising
- Getting treatments when infected with STDs
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eating well-balanced meals
- Avoid over-exposure to toxins
- Staying away from harmful activities like smoking and drinking
The prognosis for infertile people
Studies have shown that about 9 in 10 couples successfully get pregnant after fertility treatments. The rate at which treatments are successful varies, and they depend on the age of the couple. It is important to take note of the following
- About 1 in 2 women who are under the age of 35 successfully get pregnant with ART. This number drops down to 1 in 30 women who are in their 40s
- There is a 20% success rate in every IUI attempt
Infertility treatment and insurance coverage
You must always check with your insurance provider before any infertility treatment. This is because the policies of health insurance vary and can cover certain medical procedures that are necessary, like surgeries for the treatment of fibroids, endometriosis and even IUI, but may not cover some medications like the ones that stimulate ovulation. Always check with your insurance provider to be sure which procedure and treatment are covered before you proceed.
Possible questions to ask your doctor
If you are worried about your fertility status, there are certain questions you can ask your doctor. Some of these questions include:
- What is the cause of my/our infertility?
- Do my partner, and I need to get tested for problems with fertility?
- How quickly should my partner and I get tested for problems with fertility if we are both older?
- What is the best treatment you would recommend for us?
- How high is the success rate for this treatment?
- Are there any side effects or risks we should worry about?
- Are there any signs of complications we should look out for?
For most married people and even individuals, infertility can be a huge problem. The cause can be determined, and the best possible treatment option adopted. Contact us today for more information concerning fertility or if you need a private gynaecologist in London. Get in touch with us today for more information.