Infertility, or the inability to conceive despite regular sexual intercourse, is a common problem that affects both men and women. The latest global statistics reveal that one in six couples have been affected by infertility problems that include the inability to get pregnant and also the inability to carry pregnancy to full term. These problems can have a devastating effect on a couple, causing feelings that range from frustration to heartbreak. If you or someone you love is having infertility issues, help is available. Included in our Leading Medical Clinics list of the top 10 percent of medical practitioners from every discipline are doctors that offer a variety of treatments for infertility.
Possible Causes of Infertility
Infertility problems can be caused by problems in the female, male or in both partners. These problems may include one or more of the following:
Ovulation disorders that result in problems with the ovaries releasing eggs. The disorders that fall in this category include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and hyperprolactinemia (a hormone disorder that can cause irregular ovulation).
Uterine or cervical problems, including abnormalities in shape and the presence of tumors, can interfere with the egg fertilization process.
Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes due to inflammation can hinder the egg from dropping. This can occur as a result of pelvic inflammatory disease or sexually transmitted diseases.
Early menopause (or primary ovarian insufficiency), which causes the ovaries to stop working and eggs to cease dropping for fertilization. This condition may be the result of certain diseases, radiation or chemotherapy treatments or smoking.
Endometriosis causes tissue to grow inside the uterus, which can affect the function of the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Medical diseases and conditions that include diabetes, kidney disease, sickle cell disease, Cushing’s disease, celiac disease, cancer (and its treatment) and thyroid problems can adversely affect a woman’s fertility.
Certain types of medication, including antidepressants, antibiotics, painkillers, high doses or long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and neuroleptic and antipsychotic medications may cause temporary infertility problems.
Exposure to chemicals and toxins may reduce a woman’s fertility. Smoking, immoderate alcohol consumption and exposure to radiation are all possible factors.
Advancing age is considered a factor of infertility for both sexes. For women, the number and quality of eggs they are producing begins to decline in their mid-30s.
Lifestyle factors, including being overweight or underweight and stress, can also adversely affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant.
Sperm production problems, including low or no sperm count, that affect male fertility can have a variety of causes. Health problems, prior infection or trauma involving the testes and genetic defects are all factors.
Sperm delivery problems that interfere with the delivery of sperm to the egg for fertilization can be caused by many things. Among these causes are premature ejaculation, genetic diseases, blockage of the testes, damage to the reproductive organs and previous vasectomy surgery.
Exposure to chemicals and toxins may adversely affect a man’s sperm count and quality. These may include tobacco smoke, alcohol, marijuana, steroids, radiation, pesticides and exposure to heat (often in the form of hot tubs and saunas).
Medical diseases and conditions, including prostatitis, genital infections, having the mumps during childhood or adolescence, undescended testicles or varicocele (scrotal varicose veins) can contribute to problems with fertility in men.
Certain types of medication, including those used to treat ulcers and psoriasis, may hinder or prevent sperm production.
Advancing age is considered a factor of infertility for both sexes, though a man’s fertility begins to decline later (around 40 years old) than a woman’s, and is seen as a more gradual decline.
Lifestyle factors, including stress and being overweight or underweight, can also adversely affect a man’s sperm health, causing him to have infertility problems.
The Different Types of Fertility Treatments
As there are many possible causes of infertility, there are also a variety of possible treatments available for both sexes, depending on the cause of the infertility problems. Some of these treatments may be administered in conjunction with others to heighten the chances of pregnancy.
Treatments for Women
- Fertility drugs to stimulate ovulation
- Hysteroscopic surgery to correct uterine problems
- In vitro fertilization (IVF)
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
- Egg donor treatments
- Gestational carriers (surrogacy)
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
Treatments for Men
- Medication for sexual intercourse problems
- Antibiotics to treat infections that affect semen production
- Hormone treatments
- Vasovasostomy or vasoepididymostomy surgery (vasectomy reversal)
- Surgery to correct sperm obstruction
- Assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatments that assist sperm delivery to the egg for fertilization (such as IVF, IUI and ICSI)
Should You Consider Fertility Treatment?
You may be considered a good candidate for a fertility treatment if you:
- Are in good overall health
- Have tried unsuccessfully to conceive by natural means for at least one year
- Have had problems carrying pregnancy to full term
- Have blocked, damaged or missing fallopian tubes
- Have a low amount or low quality of eggs
- Have an abnormally shaped uterus or cervix, or growths in the area
- Have a partner with low sperm count, or other semen problems
- Have medical or other issues preventing you from getting pregnant
- Have a partner with medical or other issues affecting your ability to conceive
- Have realistic expectations for treatment
Interested in learning more about the fertility treatments available to you? Search our directory for the top fertility clinics in your area.