For any couple trying to start a family, an infertility diagnosis can be shattering. Most doctors recommend couples visit a fertility specialist if they haven’t been able to conceive even after a year of unprotected sex. For women above 35, this duration falls to six months. In India, infertility has become a growing cause for concern. Going by current estimates, around 1 in 5 Indian couples will experience problems with infertility. Understanding infertility could help couples take steps to manage their condition. Here are the most common causes of infertility faced by men and women today.
Causes of Male Infertility
Historically, the reasons for infertility have always been attributed to women. However, male and female factors contribute to infertility equally at 40 percent. In the remaining number of cases, there are usually issues with both. Male infertility is often more difficult to diagnose than female infertility because symptoms do not show up early. The following are the most common causes of male infertility.
Varicoceles are enlarged veins in the scrotum which can lead to complications with normal sperm production. It is one of the most common causes of male infertility, but luckily, is also reversible. Most infertility specialists believe that the reason why varicoceles can lead to infertility is because they raise the internal temperature of the scrotum. Since sperm requires an optimal temperature to develop normally, any fluctuation can cause abnormalities. Varicoceles have been linked to low sperm count, sperm morphology and sperm quality.
Even if a man has healthy sperm, problems with ejaculation can prevent conception. Retrograde ejaculation, also known as dry ejaculation, occurs when semen enters the bladder during orgasm instead of coming out of the penis. There are several factors which can lead to retrograde ejaculation including damage to the spinal cord, previous surgical procedures and diabetes. If a man has healthy sperm despite experiencing retrograde ejaculation, they can be extracted and used for artificial insemination.
Sperm travels through many different tubes before it finally exits the penis at the time of ejaculation. If any of these tubes are blocked, it might lead to low sperm count and as a result, infertility. Deformities or a complete absence of the vas deferens is one of the main reasons for sperm blockage and can be a congenital disability or due to physical trauma. Other tubules which might cause blockages include the epididymis, the urethra and the ejaculatory ducts. Previous surgeries, infections and cysts are some of the common reasons for abnormalities within the tubules.
Infections, especially those that are left untreated for a long time, can cause significant damage to the sperm and tubes. STIs such as gonorrhoea can cause inflammation of the testicles as well as the epididymis (the tube which carries sperm from the testicles to the vas deferens). HIV can also create complications with healthy sperm production and transport.
One of the main causes of male infertility is unhealthy lifestyle choices. Smoking is one of the most widespread causes of male infertility. Currently, around 17% of the population in India smokes, contributing to a growing number of cases of male infertility. Obesity, excessive alcohol consumption and recreational drugs can also affect sperm count and quality. Additionally, bodybuilding supplements have been linked to low fertility levels among men. Exposure to environmental factors such as heavy metals, harmful chemicals and radiation can also affect fertility.
Causes of Infertility in Women
Infertility in women can sometimes be detected early on because it can result from hormonal disruptions. Apart from hormonal factors, there are also multiple other factors which can cause infertility in women. These are the most common causes of infertility in women.
One of the first symptoms of endometriosis is heavy and painful periods. During normal menstruation, the uterine lining formed in anticipation of pregnancy sheds and is removed from the body. However, when a woman has endometriosis, the uterine lining does not completely shed. Instead, it attaches to other parts of the body. Endometriosis is one of the most common causes of infertility in women, accounting for around 30-50 percent of all cases of female infertility.
If a woman regularly experiences irregular periods, then ovulation cycles can be unpredictable. PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is one of the most common reasons for irregular periods in women and is also a major cause of female infertility. Apart from irregular periods, PCOS is also marked by excessive weight gain, painful periods, abnormal hair growth and skin disorders. Irregular periods can also be due to stress, emotional issues, sudden weight loss or weight gain.
Age is one of the biggest concerns for women trying to get pregnant because it can affect the quality of eggs. After 35, every passing year can lead to further deterioration in egg quality. Even if a woman hasn’t hit menopause, she might still have issues getting pregnant. With age, the increase in the risk of a miscarriage is also much higher.
4.Fallopian tube issues
After an egg is fertilised by a sperm, it needs to travel through the fallopian tube to reach the uterus. If there are issues with the fallopian tube, it can severely impact a woman’s chances of conceiving. Infections, including STIs, can lead to scarring in the fallopian tube, especially if they are left untreated for a long time. Endometriosis can also lead to deformities in the tube. Additionally, previous surgeries or an ectopic pregnancy might cause irreversible damage.
Smoking has as big an impact on female infertility as it does on male infertility. Miscarriages are found to be more common among women who have a history of smoking. Recreational drugs like marijuana can also prevent conception. To add to that, overweight or underweight women might face issues with fertility. Women who are long-time users of birth control pills might also have trouble conceiving because these drugs interfere with the body’s normal hormone production.
Apart from these common causes of infertility, there are many other specific causes which can affect men and women. However, a diagnosis of infertility does not have to put an end to your dreams of becoming a parent. At Motherhood IVF, we offer you the latest advancements in infertility treatment along with our years of expertise to help you experience the joy of parenthood.