Fertility Problems and Possible Solutions
Having a baby isn’t always easy. Even if neither of you has fertility issues, you only have a 25% chance of getting pregnant each cycle.
Many doctors won’t consider a couple to have a fertility problem until they’ve tried for a baby for at least a year. But one in seven couples need medical help to conceive.
Causes of Infertility
One of the causes of fertility problems in women is endometriosis – a gynecological condition in which tissue, similar to the lining of the uterus, grows in other areas of the body, most commonly on the ovaries , causing inflammation, scarring and adhesions.
Another cause is PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) when a hormonal imbalance prevents eggs from maturing in the ovaries. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID); fibroids, STDs, chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer, and thyroid disease can also interfere with fertility.
Up to 25% of couples with fertility issues have a semen allergy. It can occur in both men and women when an immune reaction renders the sperm immobile and unable to swim towards the egg.
Fertility can also be affected by being overweight or underweight, smoking (cannabis or cigarettes). Stress and excess alcohol can also seriously affect your fertility.
The male/female infertility ratio is about 40/60. A man’s health and lifestyle are factors, but medical issues may be to blame, such as a blockage in the tubes carrying sperm – possibly caused by a sports injury to the testicles, STDs or repairs of hernia. Only one in ten men with blocked tubes is born this way.
Genetic diseases exist, but are rare. Chromosomal irregularities can disrupt cell division and sperm production.
Men can also have hormonal irregularities. For example, overproduction of the female hormone prolactin in men has an effect on fertility.
• Fertility drugs (clomid or gonadotropins) to stimulate the ovaries to produce more mature eggs each month, thus increasing the chances of conceiving. Multiple pregnancies are a risk.
• IVF (in vitro fertilization). Fertility drugs stimulate egg production. These are removed and placed in a petri dish with a fresh sperm sample. If healthy embryos develop, one or two are returned to the woman’s uterus. The remaining embryos can be frozen for the future. If the man’s sperm is not viable, a donor can be used.
• GIFT (intrafallopian transfer of gametes) – like IVF, but the eggs and sperm are immediately transferred to the uterus to be fertilized in the body, not in the laboratory.
• Sperm extraction (removing sperm directly from the testicles)
• ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) – a sperm is injected directly into an egg collected in the laboratory and transferred to the uterus.
• Blastocyst transfer – as with IVF, the embryo is created in the laboratory, but only transferred back after five or six days, when it has had more time to develop.
• Assisted hatching – a small hole is made in the mucous membrane of the uterus to help implantation of the fertilized egg.