Infertility 101: Addressing Common Conception Problems

    Infertility 101: Addressing Common Conception Problems

    Infertility affects 15% of couples globally.

    Infertility is failure to conceive within one year of regular, unprotected intercourse. This 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. Checking 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 infertility is identifying what may cause it. For the female, it is usually due to the following:

    1. Ovulation Problems

    Most female infertility cases are due to issues of ovulation.

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

    2. 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.

    3. Birth Defects

    Like Down Syndrome or spina bifida.

    4. History of Ectopic Pregnancy

    Ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus.

    5. 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:

    1. 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 than 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 by Shared Causes

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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?

    Infertility symptoms usually depend on the cause. Sometimes, these indicate other health conditions related to infertility.

    Symptoms for Women:

    • 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

    Symptoms for Men

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

    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 To Diagnose Infertility

    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.

    Tests for Women

    1. Pelvic Exam

    A sample of cervical mucus is tested for possible infections.

    2. 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.

    3. Ovulation Predictor Kit

    This tests blood or urine to determine if ovulation is recurring. This kit is available over-the-counter.

    4. 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.

    5. Laparoscopy

    Healthcare professionals perform this procedure by inserting a small camera through the abdomen to examine reproductive organs.

    6. Hysteroscopy

    This involves inserting a long, thin camera through the vagina to the uterus.

    7. Ultrasound

    This looks at the uterus and ovaries for developing cysts and other abnormalities.

    8. 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.

    Tests for Men

    1. Semen Analysis

    A semen sample is collected for examination under a microscope. This evaluates the sperm’s quantity, motility, and appearance.

    2. 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.

    3. 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 To Treat Infertility

    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. Doctors may manage a variety of conditions using hormone medications.

    Treatment for Women

    • Clomiphene (Clomid, Serophene): This medication stimulates 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 injectible assists hormones in stimulating the ovaries to produce more eggs.
    • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) analogs: This treatment is for women who 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, laparoscopic surgery can, at times, treat endometriosis.

    Treatment for Men

    • Surgery: Damage and blockages within the reproductive organs can be surgically corrected. For example, cutting off abnormal veins can repair varicoceles. Moreover, surgery can remove obstructions within the reproductive tract.
    • Hormone therapy: The pituitary gland and hypothalamus regulate hormone production. Doctors may recommend chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) for men with a hormone deficiency. Gonadotropin involves injecting recombinant human follicle-stimulating hormone (rhFSH) in the blood which helps increase sperm count.

    For 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): During IVF, healthcare professionals surgically collect eggs and combine them with sperm in a petri dish where fertilization can occur. They then insert the embryos into your uterus. This procedure requires hormone pretreatment. There are two variations of IVF:
    1. Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT): During this method, a doctor inserts the embryos in the fallopian tubes instead. They travel to the uterus on their own.
    2. 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.

    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 can affect both men and womn. For women, it is mainly an issue with ovulation. On the other hand, male infertility is because of 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 shows symptoms including irregular or absence of menstrual period, and excessive hair growth. In contrast, 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.

    Medical professionals can treat infertility with either medications or through surgery. Some couples also opt for assisted reproductive technologies to increase their chances.

    Learn more about Getting Pregnant here.

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

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner


    Written by Honey Buenaventura · Updated 4 weeks ago

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