Infertility is the difficulty in conceiving a child. It results from female factors in ⅓ of cases and from male factors in ⅓ of cases as well. In the final third, the cause is either unknown or a combination of male and female factors.
Infertility is a problem that affects about 1 in 6 couples.
If you're having fertility issues, you're actually not alone. More than 5 million people of childbearing age, or one in ten couples, have difficulty conceiving a child. When it comes to fertility, the advice we are given is often quite unhelpful.
Before exposing you to the causes and symptoms of infertility, here are 5 misconceptions about it.
Myth 1: Fertility is a women's issue.
Infertility is most often thought to be a woman's problem, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, although 35% of fertility cases are due to women's problems, an equal number of these cases, also 35%, are caused by men. A number of symptoms in men can suggest infertility, such as pain or swelling in the testicles, changes in desire, or problems maintaining an erection or ejaculating. Also, the infertility of men increases with age, just like that of women.
Myth 2: Health does not influence fertility.
Did you know that one of the main causes of infertility, for both men and women, is health problems? To have the best chance of conceiving, you need to adopt a healthy lifestyle, which includes maintaining a healthy weight, taking vitamins for example, not using drugs, not smoking, and drinking fluids. alcohol in moderation.
Myth 3: Having a child means you don't have to worry.
According to the data, about 30% of infertility cases occur after the couple has had their first child. So even if you already have a child, you may face infertility when trying to have a second or third child.
Myth 4: If you work hard enough, you will get pregnant.
Infertility is a medical condition, so it's not your fault if you can't conceive. Sometimes your infertility problems cannot be treated, no matter how hard you try to solve them. However, there are many medical advances that can help you conceive, which we will discuss at the end of this article. According to “The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, more than half of couples who undergo fertility treatment achieve successful pregnancies. So there is still hope!
1. Female infertility
Each of these factors is essential for getting pregnant:
- You must ovulate. To get pregnant, your ovaries must produce and release an egg, a process known as ovulation. Your doctor can help you assess your menstrual cycles and confirm ovulation.
- You should have regular sex during your fertile window. Your doctor can help you better understand when you are most fertile.
- The fallopian tubes must be open (the egg and the sperm meet in the fallopian tubes). The embryo also needs a healthy uterus to develop.
What are the causes of female infertility?
The most common causes of female infertility are problems with ovulation, damage to the fallopian tubes or the uterus (often due to certain diseases which we will discuss shortly), or problems with the cervix. . Age can contribute to infertility because as a woman ages, her fertility naturally tends to decline.
Female infertility is caused by one or more of the factors below.
- A hormonal imbalance
- A tumor or cyst
- Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
- Use of alcohol or drugs
- Thyroid gland problems
- Excess weight
- The stress
- Intense exercise resulting in significant loss of body fat
- Extremely short menstrual cycles
Damage to the fallopian tubes or uterus can be caused by one or more of the following:
- pelvic inflammatory disease
- A previous infection
- Polyps in the uterus
- Endometriosis or fibroids
- Scar tissue or adhesions
- Chronic disease
- A previous ectopic (tubal) pregnancy
A birth defect
* Endometriosis occurs when tissue that normally grows in the uterus implants and grows in other places. This extra growth of tissue - and its surgical removal - can cause scarring, which can block the fallopian tubes and prevent the union of an egg and a sperm. Endometriosis can also affect the lining of the uterus, thus disrupting the implantation of the fertilized egg. The disease also appears to affect fertility in less direct ways, for example by damaging the sperm or egg.
Can infertility in women be prevented?
There is usually nothing that can be done to prevent female infertility caused by genetic problems or disease. However, there are several things women can do to decrease the possibility of infertility:
- Take steps to prevent sexually transmitted diseases
- Avoid illicit drugs and tobacco
- Avoid excessive or frequent alcohol consumption
- Adopt good personal hygiene and health practices
- Perform annual check-ups with your gynecologist when you are sexually active.
When to consult a doctor ?
The moment of consultation sometimes depends on your age:
- Until age 35 , most doctors recommend trying to get pregnant for at least a year before performing a test or treatment.
- If you're between the ages of 35 and 40 , discuss your concerns with your doctor after six months of trying.
- If you are over 40 , your doctor will probably suggest that you start treatments immediately.
Your doctor may also want to start testing or treatment right away if you or your partner have known fertility problems, or if you have a history of irregular and/or painful periods, pelvic inflammatory disease, repeated miscarriages, treatment previous cancer or endometriosis.
2. Male infertility
What causes male infertility?
Male infertility can be caused by low sperm production, abnormal sperm function, or blockages that prevent the flow of sperm. Illnesses, injuries, chronic health conditions, lifestyle choices, and other factors can contribute to male infertility.
To understand better: you must produce healthy sperm for your partner to get pregnant. First, it involves the growth and formation of the male reproductive organs during puberty. At least one of your testicles must be functioning properly, and your body must produce testosterone and other hormones to trigger and maintain sperm production.
Sperm need to be transported in semen. Once sperm are produced in the testicles, delicate tubes carry them until they mix with semen and are ejaculated through the penis.
There must be enough sperm in the semen, otherwise the chances of one of your sperm fertilizing your partner's egg decrease. Sperm must be functional and able to move. If your sperm movement or quality is abnormal, the sperm may not be able to reach or penetrate your partner's egg.
Overexposure to certain environmental elements such as heat, toxins and chemicals (pesticides, paint materials, high doses of radiation, lead, etc.) can reduce sperm production or function.
Health, lifestyle and other causes:
Here are some other additional causes of male infertility:
- Drug use. Anabolic steroids taken to boost strength and muscle growth can cause the testicles to shrink and sperm production to decrease. Using cocaine or marijuana can also temporarily reduce your sperm count and quality.
- Alcohol consumption. It can lower testosterone levels, cause erectile dysfunction and decrease sperm production. Liver disease caused by excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to fertility problems.
- Smoking. Men who smoke may have lower sperm counts than men who don't smoke. Passive smoking can also affect male fertility.
- The weight. Obesity can impair fertility in a number of ways, including directly affecting the sperm cells themselves and causing hormonal changes that reduce male fertility.
What are the symptoms of male infertility?
In some cases, an inherited condition, hormonal imbalance, enlarged veins around the testicle, or a condition that blocks the passage of sperm, causes signs and symptoms. The signs and symptoms you may observe are:
- Problems with sexual function - for example, difficulty with ejaculation or small volumes of ejaculated fluid, decreased desire for sex or difficulty maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction).
- Pain, swelling or lump in the area of the testicles.
- Recurrent respiratory infections
- Inability to smell
- Abnormal growth of the mammary glands (gynecomastia)
- Decreased facial or body hair or other signs of a chromosomal or hormonal abnormality
When to consult a doctor ?
See a doctor if you have failed to conceive after a year of regular, unprotected sex and you have any of the following symptoms:
- Erection or ejaculation problems, low libido or other sexual function problems.
- Pain, discomfort, lump or swelling in the area of the testicles.
- History of problems with the testicles or prostate.
- If you have had surgery on the groin, testicles, penis or scrotum.
3. Stress can also be the source of infertility: how to manage this stress?
The majority of couples who fail to conceive seek infertility treatment first. But if the cause is psychological, this treatment will obviously not be effective. Paradoxically, in some cases, the woman can become pregnant when psychologically she decides to give up the idea with her partner (after a long battle to remedy this infertility). Could returning to a normal, stress-free state unblock the problem? Maybe ! But how not to stress?
First, don't focus on the problem. Thinking only of him will fuel that anxiety.
Don't let potential social pressures influence you. Act on your own terms.
Start practicing breathing techniques or meditation to channel stress and generate positive emotions.
There are very effective ovulation tests on the market today. Know how to identify your ovulation days during your menstrual cycle without obsessing over it.
Communicate with your partner. Difficulties in conceiving should not break the bond that unites you.
Free your mind by indulging in recreational activities. Your life should not be limited to your desire for children.
- If you feel overwhelmed by the problem, do not hesitate to seek help from a specialist (psychologist, psychiatrist).
- You must feel secure in your relationship to have a child. It is necessary to define and raise the fears and the blockages which can be linked to the history that one had with his own family, which can be linked to the relationship that we have in the couple. Sometimes you just have to find the key to open the doors and make the couple feel free from certain things.
Once the causes of infertility have been identified, solutions can be proposed.
Hormone treatment is offered to women who have ovulation disorders, which are manifested by insufficient or no egg production. By administering hormones, ovulation is encouraged and closely monitored to determine when intercourse is most likely to be effective.
Intrauterine insemination . Intrauterine insemination (IUI) involves introducing sperm into a woman's uterus during ovulation. Less technological and intrusive methods, such as IUI, are becoming more common, but their success rate depends on the cause of the infertility. This technique is used in certain cases of endometriosis , or in cases of unexplained infertility .
In vitro fertilization. This technique of medically assisted procreation (PMA) consists of bringing an egg produced by the ovaries into contact with a sperm in the laboratory. The embryo begins its development in vitro and is then transplanted into the uterus. Practiced in case of fertility disorders (obstruction of the fallopian tubes, absence of oocyte production, early menopause, failure of artificial insemination or idiopathic infertility).
Egg donation. Consists of collecting an oocyte produced by a healthy woman, who agrees to give it to the woman who needs it.
Clomid . This inexpensive and very often prescribed pill tricks the body into believing that estrogen levels are low, causing more eggs to be produced.
Adoption. This method can be expensive and cause many problems. Its success largely depends on external factors. For example, should you adopt a child born in the country or abroad? How long are you willing to wait? Are you able to consider another person's child as your own?
Surgery. But in what cases?
- For women - some tubal problems, related to the fallopian tubes, can be solved by surgery. For example, if the fallopian tubes are blocked, surgery can clear them. Surgery also offers solutions for benign tumors, or certain congenital uterine malformations. Microsurgery can resolve endometriosis laparoscopically. This technique makes it possible to remove foci of endometriosis very precisely, without damaging healthy tissue.
- For men - Surgery is effective in treating varicocele, which is permanent varicose dilation of the veins of the spermatic cord. Varicocele decreases the number of spermatozoa and reduces their motility. Certain tubal obstacles, present in the vas deferens and in the epididymis, can prevent the free circulation of spermatozoa. They can be removed by microsurgery.
...In short, don't be impatient: conceiving a child can take time. To put the odds on your side, adopt a healthy lifestyle, avoid endocrine disruptors as much as possible, prepare your body for a future pregnancy, and take care of yourself. For more tips on how to eat healthy, or how to avoid endocrine disruptors, go here , and here .
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