Infertility 101: Addressing Common Conception Problems

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Update Date 20/09/2020 . 6 mins read
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Infertility affects 15% of couples globally.

This is determined by failure to conceive within one year of regular, unprotected intercourse. Infertility can be caused by both male and female factors. Female infertility accounts for one-third of all infertility cases.

Another one-third of infertility problems are due to the man. Other cases are attributed to both or some unknown problems. How to check for infertility include multiple tests and procedures.

It is important to check in with a doctor first once you decide to get pregnant.

What causes infertility?

The first step in knowing how to check for infertility is identifying what may cause it. Infertility can have multiple causes. For the female, it is usually due to the following:

Ovulation problems

Most female infertility cases are associated with issues of ovulation.

Ovulation is when the ovaries release an egg days before the start of menstrual cycle. Obesity, hormonal imbalances, and tumors can interfere with ovulation.

Damage to fallopian tubes

The fallopian tube is where the sperm meets the egg for fertilization. Sometimes, blockages form, which disrupts the process. These may be caused by the following:

Pelvic inflammatory disease

This is an infection in the woman’s reproductive organs.

Endometriosis

This occurs when a tissue found within the uterus grows outside and in other parts of the body.

Birth defects like Down’s syndrome or spina bifida

History of ectopic pregnancy

Uterine fibroids

This occurs when clumps of tissue grow within the walls of the uterus. These are usually benign or non-cancerous.

For males, infertility can be caused by the following:

Poor sperm health

This is indicated by sperm count, motility, and appearance. Sperm growth and development can be affected by a number of factors, some of which include:

  • Poor lifestyle choices
  • Pre-existing health conditions
  • Infections
  • Chromosomal abnormalities
  • Varicoceles: It is the enlargement of veins within the scrotum. Varicoceles affect sperm production due to the disruption of blood flow.
  • Heat: Testicles are of usually low temperature compared to other organs. Subjecting them to high temperature levels for long periods of time can impair sperm health and functionality.
  • Issues with ejaculation and maintaining an erection: These are linked to hormonal imbalances. It can result in the decrease of sex drive.

How to check for infertility in both male and female is also determined by shared causes, including:

  • Age: Studies show that fertility declines as you get older. Sperm motility decreases in men while women may suffer from a miscarriage. Additionally, children born after their parents are 35 are more likely to have abnormalities.
  • Obesity: Additional fat deposits in men can affect their sperm quality. Meanwhile, women who are overweight are likely to take twice as long to get pregnant.
    Poor lifestyle choices: Frequent intake of alcohol and use of tobacco and drugs can impair functionality of reproductive organs.

What are the symptoms of infertility?

Knowing how to check for infertility means watching out for symptoms.

Infertility symptoms usually depend on the cause. Sometimes, these indicate other health conditions related to infertility. For women, common symptoms include:

  • Changes in menstrual cycle: Hormonal imbalances impairs normal ovulation process. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an example of hormonal imbalance. This condition is usually marked by irregular periods or none at all.
  • Pelvic pain, back pain, and frequent cramps
  • Excessive hair growth especially in the chest and face
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Acne
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Abnormal nipple discharge unrelated to pregnancy

On the other hand, symptoms in males are usually unnoticeable until they try to conceive. Some symptoms which might manifest include the following:

  • Pain, swelling, and discomfort around the testicular region
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Premature ejaculation
  • Low sex drive

Contact your doctor once you experience symptoms accompanied by pain and discomfort. These include abdominal pain and abnormal bleeding in women, and swelling around the testicles for the males.

How is infertility diagnosed?

Undergoing tests and procedures help doctors in how to check for infertility. Both male and female infertility can be assessed through a physical exam. This includes collecting your medical history to identify potential factors that could contribute to infertility.

For women, your doctor might have to conduct other tests, some of which include:

  • Pelvic exam: A sample of cervical mucus is tested for possible infections.
  • Urine or blood test: These are used to check for infections or hormonal imbalances. For example, the levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) in the blood can indicate the quantity of a woman’s egg supply.
  • Ovulation predictor kit: This tests blood or urine to determine if ovulation is recurring. This kit can be bought over-the-counter.
  • Hysterosalpingogram (HSG): This method is used to examine the fallopian tubes for blockages. A liquid dye is injected into the uterus while simultaneously taking x-ray pictures to see if the liquid is able to move freely along the fallopian tubes.
  • Laparoscopy: The procedure is done by inserting a small camera through the abdomen to examine reproductive organs.
  • Hysteroscopy: This involves inserting a long, thin camera through the vagina to the uterus.
  • Ultrasound: This looks at the uterus and ovaries for developing cysts and other abnormalities.
  • Sonohysterogram: This method combines ultrasound and saline injected into the uterus. This makes it easy to examine the uterus’ inner lining.

Tracking your ovulation can also help in how to check for infertility. This can help your doctor assess you further and makes it easier to recommend treatment.

Males are also subjected to additional tests, including:

  • Semen analysis: Semen sample is collected to be examined under a microscope. This evaluates the sperm’s quantity, motility, and appearance.
  • Testicular Biopsy: This is usually done after semen analysis shows little to no sperm presence at all. The procedure is done by inserting a needle through the scrotum to get a sample of tissue for evaluation.
  • Ultrasound: Transrectal ultrasound uses a probe to examine the male’s reproductive organ. This is helpful in determining if there are blockages and structural damage.

How is infertility treated?

Treatment comes after knowing how to check for infertility. Treatment of male and female infertility is dependent on the cause. These can include medications or surgical procedures.

Most infertility cases in women involve issues with ovulation. These are usually managed using hormone medications. These are also called fertility drugs. Example of fertility medicines include:

  • Clomiphene (Clomid, Serophene): This is used to stimulate ovulation, especially among women with PCOS or other hormonal disorders. It helps the pituitary gland release hormones necessary for ovulation.
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (Gonal-F, Bravelle): This is injected to assist hormones in stimulating the ovaries to produce more eggs.
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) analogs: These are used by women to ovulate too early, before the egg reaches maturity.

Female infertility treatment can also involve surgery. This is done when you have blockages in the fallopian tube or scarring within the uterus. For example, endometriosis can be treated through laparoscopic surgery.

For men, meanwhile, treatment usually involves:

  • Surgery: Damage and blockages within the reproductive organs can be surgically corrected. For example, varicoceles are repaired by cutting off the abnormal veins. Moreover, obstructions within the reproductive tract are removed through surgery.
  • Hormone therapy: Hormone production is regulated by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus. Men with this kind of deficiency are treated with chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Gonadotropin involves injecting recombinant human follicle-stimulating hormone (rhFSH) in the blood which helps increase sperm count.

Some couples, however, undergo assisted reproductive technologies (ART) which includes:

  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI): This procedure places sperm directly into the uterus using a fine catheter. It is recommended to do this at the time of ovulation.
  • In-vitro fertilization (IVF): IVF surgically collects eggs and are combined with sperm in a petri dish where fertilization can occur. The embryos are then inserted into your uterus. This procedure requires hormone pretreatment. There are two variations of IVF:
  • Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT): During this method, the embryos are inserted in the fallopian tubes instead. They travel to the uterus on their own.
  • Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT): This involves inserting the egg and sperm in the fallopian tube before fertilization even takes place.

It is important to consult with your doctor first on your best options for parenthood. Your current health state should be taken into consideration for a safe pregnancy.

What are ways to prevent infertility?

After knowing how to check for infertility, you can do the following to minimize your risks:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Obese women are likely to take twice as long to get pregnant.
  • Exercise regularly: This will help with weight loss. Moreover, it will prepare your body for childbearing.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs: These contain harmful ingredients which impairs fertility.
  • Eat clean and healthy: Opt for those with the recommended nutrients and vitamins found in whole grains, lean sources of protein, and fruits and vegetables.
  • Check in with your gynecologist: Having regular check-ups can help prevent potential infections and diseases that can affect fertility.

Key Takeaways

Infertility is accounted for by both male and female problems. For women, it is caused mainly by issues with ovulation. On the other hand, male infertility is indicated by low sperm health.

In some cases however, infertility occurs due to blockages and scarring within the reproductive organs. Age and lifestyle choices can also affect your ability to conceive.

Female infertility is indicated by symptoms including irregular or absence of menstrual period, and excessive hair growth. Symptoms among males are not usually visible. However, they may experience pain and swelling around the testicles, and issues with ejaculation and erection.

How to check for infertility involves multiple tests and procedures. These procedures examine reproductive organs for infections, defects, and abnormalities.

Once diagnosed, infertility can be treated with either medications or through surgery. Some couples also opt for assisted reproductive technologies to increase their chances.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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