By Dr Bhavana Mittal , Gynaecology
No matter how much they may love their spouse, many people do not consider their family to be complete until they have had one of two children. However, not everyone can have a child. The inability to conceive or repeatedly carry a baby full term for over a year is known as infertility. In some cases, this is treatable while in others it is not. Infertility has many causes and can affect both men and women. The risk of infertility increases with age. Other risk factors include:
- Alcohol consumption
- Exposure to chemicals
Some of the common causes of infertility in women are:
- Ovulation Disorders: Ideally, an egg is produced and released alternately by the right and left ovary each menstrual cycle. However in some cases, one or both ovaries may not release their eggs. This may be due to PCOD, premature ovarian failure, an underactive or overactive thyroid gland, poor egg quality, Hyperprolactinemia and other chronic diseases such as cancer or AIDS.
- Irregularities in the Fallopian tubes or Uterus: Once the egg is released from the ovaries it travels through the fallopian tube into the uterus where it can then be fertilized by sperm cells. Thus, any irregularities with either of these organs can keep a woman from conceiving. When it comes to the fallopian tubes, development of scar tissue due to a previous surgery or any other reason is one of the most common causes of infertility. In the case of infertility caused by problems with the uterus, fibroids or tumours in the walls of the uterus are common culprits.
- Endometriosis: In some cases, the uterus may grow outside the pelvic cavity. This is known as endometriosis and is a common cause of infertility.
Infertility in men is typically caused by inadequate or low-quality sperm and ejaculation disorders. Common types of semen abnormality include low motility sperm, low concentration of sperm cells in semen and abnormally shaped sperm cells. This may be caused by a number of factors including testicular infections, cancer, wearing tight clothes, overheating the testicles, Varicocele, genetic abnormalities and certain types of medication.
In some cases, a man may not be able to ejaculate during sexual intercourse. This may be a result of abnormalities caused by other infections, radiotherapy, cystic fibrosis etc or structural abnormalities. Hormonal deficiencies can also cause problems with fertility.
In cases of infertility, the earlier a diagnosis is made the sooner it can be treated. The doctor may perform a physical examination and ask for blood tests and sonograms to monitor the situation.