Understanding Infertility: Exploring Symptoms and Causes

Understanding Infertility: Exploring Symptoms and Causes

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11 October 2023 . 6 min read

Introduction

Imagine the excitement of planning for a family, the anticipation of a baby's laughter filling your home. Now, picture the frustration when those dreams seem out of reach, and every month feels like a missed opportunity. This is the reality for millions around the world who face the challenges of infertility.

In this blog, we're diving into infertility – breaking it down, piece by piece – to discover why getting pregnant might not be as simple as we think. We’ll learn about how it’s diagnosed to possible solutions and even find ways to boost natural fertility.

What is Infertility?

Let’s start with the basics: What is infertility? Infertility is the inability to achieve a successful pregnancy after 12 months of regular, unprotected intercourse. It can be primary or secondary and affects millions worldwide, impacting mental and social well-being.

Primary infertility is when someone who has never been pregnant has trouble getting pregnant. Secondary infertility is when someone has been pregnant before but has difficulty getting pregnant again.

Around 1 in 6 people within the reproductive fertilisation infertility. For a healthy pregnancy, all steps, from healthy sperm and egg formation to fertilisation and implantation, must occur smoothly. Issues in the male or female reproductive system can hinder conception, and understanding the reasons behind this is crucial for effective treatment.

What are the signs of Infertility? 

Symptoms of infertility can vary from person to person. One of the striking and most significant signs of infertility is the inability to conceive despite having unprotected sex for one year.  

Depending upon the cause of infertility, women may experience: 

  • Pelvic pain
  • Heavy periods
  • Irregular or missed periods

What causes infertility?  Getting to the Root of the Problem

Infertility can be overwhelming, but it’s important to understand the reasons behind infertility in both men and women to find effective treatments.

Here are some causes of female infertility:

  • Problems with ovulation

What is ovulation? Ovulation is when a female's ovaries release a mature egg once a month. However, some women may have hormonal imbalances, thyroid problems, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which causes irregular or absent ovulation.

  • Problems with the uterus

Certain growths or adhesions (scar-lrevious surgeries) in the uterus can interfere with the embryo's attachment to the lining of the uterus.

  • Obstruction in the fallopian tubes

Fallopian tube issues, like inflammation, block the egg's path to sperm, hindering successful fertilisation.

  • Endometriosis

Endometriosis occurs when uterine lining tissue grows outside, affecting ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the uterus, hampering conception.

  • Cancer and its management

Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy can hinder pregnancy and lower female fertility.

Here are some causes of male infertility:

  • Environmental factors

Environmental factors like stress, smoking, alcohol, radiation, ch to reproductive problems.

  • Cancer and its management

Some cancers and their treatments may affect sperm production and function in males, leading to infertility.

  • Birth defects

Seeking Clues: The Steps Behind an Infertility Diagnosis

The tests used to diagnose infertility in males and females are different.

Evaluation test for infertility in females:

  • A detailed medical and reproductive history of the female is taken, which includes questions about prior pregnancies, miscarriages, menstrual cycle length and regularity, presence of pelvic pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding and discharge and history of pelvic infection or surgery.
  • Physical examination
  • Signs and symptoms of PCOS, hormonal imbalance or milk production from the breasts

Blood tests for infertility tests include:

  • Progesterone measurement around day 23 of the menstrual cycle.
  • Assessing Follicle Stimulating Hormones (FSH) and Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) levels, vital for fertility. AMH indicates egg reserves, while FSH stimulates egg production and oestrogen synthesis.

Evaluation tests for infertility in males:

When diagnosing male infertility, the doctor looks for signs and symptoms of hormonal deficiency or imbalance. A few signs they look out for include:

  • Increased body fat
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Decreased facial and body hair.

A thorough medical and reproductive history is also taken, which includes questions regarding:

  • Injury to testicles or penis in the past
  • Recent episodes of high fevers
  • Childhood diseases like mumps
  • Low sex drive (libido)

The doctor will perform a physical examination to identify problems like:

  • Hernia
  • Varicocele
  • Infection (determined by prostate swelling or discharge)
  • Small testes or lack of facial and body hair (indicative of hormonal deficiency)
  • Malformed tubes that transport sperm
  • A mass in the testicles

The doctor will also perform a semen analysis to assess the shape, size, and motility of the sperm. For a semen analysis, one must avoid ejaculation 48 to 72 hours before the test. To collect the semen, the man is asked to masturbate and collect the semen in a cup.

Other infertility tests for males include:

  • Blood tests to determine hormones in the blood.
  • Genetic testing
  • Biopsy of the testicles

Navigating the Maze of Infertility Treatments

Good news! Modern treatments can successfully manage up to 90% of infertility cases. Different treatment options target specific issues contributing to infertility in both men and women.

Treatment options for men may include.

  • Medications

Fertility treatments for men include certain medications which may improve sperm count, production, and quality, thus increasing the likelihood of achieving a successful pregnancy.

  • Surgery

In some cases, there may be a blockage somewhere in the male reproductive system, which can be resolved surgically to restore fertility. 

  • Sperm Retrieval Techniques

When ejaculation is a problem, or sperms are absent in the semen, they can be collected directly from the testicles and used in assisted reproductive techniques to achieve a successful pregnancy.

Treatment options for women may include.

  • Medications

Fertility treatment medicines are advised for women who face ovulation disorders. These medications help ovulation or make it more regular. 

  • Surgery

If there are growths or scar tissues inside the uterus, these can be treated with simple surgical procedures using laparoscopic techniques. 

Additionally, there are some Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ARTS), which include:

  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI): This technique introduces a sperm directly into the uterus at ovulation.
  • In vitro fertilisation (IVF): This technique unites the sperm and egg outside the body (in vitro). This embryo is then placed in the female uterus to start a pregnancy.
  • Sperm or egg donation: In some cases, the doctor may suggest using egg or sperm from donors, which can be used for achieving pregnancy using IVF.

How to Increase Fertility in Women Naturally?

When dealing with infertility, many wonder how we can increase fertility in women naturally. Here are some strategies that may help:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stick to a moderate exercise schedule.
  • Avoid consumption of alcohol.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Consider taking multivitamins after asking your doctor.
  • Work on stress management

Conclusion

While there can be various causes for infertility, identifying the right one helps doctors to find the most appropriate treatment options for couples trying to conceive.

Thyroid cannot be mentioned in a point which says “problems with the uterus” however if you look at the point above - which says “problems with ovulation, you will notice that we covered thyroid with hormonal imbalances related to infertility. — highlighted in yellow