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11 August 2023

What are common causes of infertility?

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Common Causes of Infertility

The journey to parenthood is a deeply personal and often emotional one. For many couples, the dream of conceiving a child can sometimes face unforeseen challenges due to issues with fertility. Infertility, is defined as the inability to conceive after a year of regular, unprotected intercourse, and it affects 1 in 6 couples worldwide. 

1. Age

One of the most significant factors impacting fertility is age. As individuals age, both the quality and quantity of eggs and sperm decrease. Women are most fertile in their early 20s, and by the age of 35, the decline in egg quality accelerates. For men, while sperm production continues throughout life, the quality of sperm can decline with age, leading to decreased fertility and an increased risk of genetic abnormalities.

2. Ovulation Disorders

Ovulation disorders can be a major hurdle for couples trying to conceive. Conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can disrupt the regular release of eggs from the ovaries, resulting in irregular menstrual cycles or even the absence of periods altogether. Similarly, conditions such as hypothalamic dysfunction and hyperprolactinemia can affect hormonal balance, further impeding ovulation.

3. Fallopian Tube Issues

The fallopian tubes play a crucial role in conception by transporting eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. Blockages or damage to these tubes due to infections, surgeries, or conditions like endometriosis can hinder the journey of the egg, making it difficult for sperm to meet the egg and for fertilization to occur.

4. Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus. This can lead to inflammation, scarring, and adhesions that may interfere with the normal function of reproductive organs. It's not only painful but may also contribute to fertility issues.

5. Male Factors: Sperm Quality and Quantity

Infertility isn't solely a female concern. Male factors account for a significant portion of infertility cases. Issues such as low sperm count, poor sperm motility (movement), and abnormal sperm shape can all affect the ability of sperm to fertilize an egg. Lifestyle factors, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and drugs, can impact sperm quality.

6. Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits

Lifestyle factors play a substantial role in ones fertility.  Being overweight can lead to hormonal imbalances that affect ovulation and sperm production. Being underweight can also disrupt hormonal balance and menstrual regularity. Additionally, poor diet, lack of exercise, and substance abuse can all contribute to fertility issues.

7. Medical Conditions and Treatments

Certain medical conditions like diabetes, thyroid disorders, and autoimmune diseases can affect fertility. Additionally, treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can harm reproductive organs and impact fertility. 

8. Unexplained Infertility

In some cases, despite thorough testing, the cause of infertility remains unexplained. This can be incredibly frustrating for couples seeking answers. It's possible that subtle factors or interactions between multiple factors are at play, leading to difficulties in conceiving.

Infertility is a multifaceted challenge that can stem from various factors. Those facing fertility issues have a range of options available to them, including assisted reproductive techniques like in vitro fertilization (IVF) and fertility medications. If you or someone you know is struggling with infertility, seeking the guidance of a fertility consultant can provide valuable insights and personalised treatment options as everyone's body and journey is unique. 

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