Infertility has always been a curse for couples willing to conceive a child. But the positive phase of this condition has now begun as science now has answers to address such conditions. Infertility is not just a medical and biological condition; it is also subjected to public scrutiny and can be easily deemed as a social stigma. But does labeling it as a social stigma help our case? Not really. There are certain facts that need to be set straight first; firstly infertility is certainly not a disease rather a condition that science has successfully combated; second treating it as a stigma doesn’t help the situation rather it delays and complicates the medical procedures that could genuinely combat this condition.
Let’s try and define infertility beyond the realm of social description of the same. To put it simply in a layman’s term, it refers to the condition in which a couple is unable to conceive or the inability of the woman to cope with a full term pregnancy even after 1 year continuous sexual intercourse without birth control. Infertility in women of age 15 years to 44 years is 8% to 10%. But fortunately most of it is treatable, and couples struggling with infertility can now conceive with the help of some treatment. In many of the cases (on an average 45% to 50% of the cases), the root cause of infertility can be traced back to the man.
But what causes infertility in men?
The issue of sperm and semen:
Science defines semen as the white fluid that a man’s penis releases during orgasm. This semen consists of sperm. Sperm is produced in the testicles. Now how does this work to fertilize the egg in the woman? When a man ejaculates, The released semen from the penis helps the sperm transport itself to the egg in the woman for fertilization of the same. This is the normal process of egg fertilization, but what happens when this normal process is hindered? That may cause some problems and possibly cause infertility as well.
Some of the common factors that are probable cause of infertility in men are:
Even though the shape of the sperm doesn’t sound like a possible hindrance but the shape of the sperm affects the speed of the sperm too. If the shape is unusual then the sperm cannot travel rapidly and accurately thereby sabotaging the conception. According to statistics, almost 2% of men have suboptimal sperm.
But are men born with suboptimal sperm?
There is always the risk of abnormal semen not being able to carry the sperm effectively to the egg.
Some of the causes are:
In women, the risk factors affecting the fertility include age, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, eating disorders, bad diet, lack of exercise, mental stress and exposure to chemicals & toxins.
Apart from these, there are medical conditions which affect fertility in women and some of such conditions include:
What are the treatments for such conditions and problems of infertility?
Among all the options that science has to offer couples mostly opt for IVF (In-vitro fertilization) and IUI (Intrauterine insemination).
IUI is a simple process which involves the insertion of sperm sample directly into the uterus through the cervix with the help of catheter at the time of ovulation. But before the insertion the sperm has to be washed and separated to exclude any infection or complexities. This treatment is opted for, when there is a problem of sperm count, decreased sperm motility.
IVF is a medical process in which sperm is placed with unfertilized eggs in a Petri dish and here the fertilisation takes place. And after that the embryo is placed in the uterus to begin the pregnancy. The advantage here is that the embryo can be frozen for future use.
IUI is a successful procedure but some complications and unwanted outcomes are involved. With IUI there is a risk of multiple pregnancies. As this procedure involves the administration of medicines to regulate the ovulation hence the possibility of pregnancy of higher-order multiples is considerably high. IUI has considerable amount of risk factors as a lot of the factors are variables and subjected to changes from person to person. But the normal success rate of IUI treatment is somewhere between 8% to 15% for a patient above 35 years and 2% to 5% for patients above 40. Compared to this IVF has a better success rate. But this doesn’t mean we should think of IUI failure. Doctors often advice IUI as the first option and in case of failure they suggest IVF.
One of the most important differences in both these treatments is the financial side. How cost effective are they? There is no doubt that a much simpler procedure like that of IUI is much less expensive and hence highly opted for as compared to IVF. But IVF is significantly more helpful that IUI in such cases. Moreover it is easier to control the repercussions of the procedure.