Infertility – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Incapability of the woman to conceive, after one year of regular sexual union without contraceptives, or to retain the fetus till childbirth is called as infertility. Women who are able to get pregnant but then have repeat miscarriages are also said to be infertile. The incidence of infertility increases with age. The male partner contributes to about 40 percent of cases of infertility.

Causes

The term endometriosis refers to a benign and common disease in which cells like the ones that line the inside of the womb are established outside the womb e.g. on the ligament supporting the uterus. Research has shown that the excessive consumption of alcohol or the use of illicit drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroin and crack, by a potential father prior to pregnancy can be the cause of infertility. About one-third of cases of infertility are caused by male factors alone. A combination of male and female factors causes about one-third of cases. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is the major cause of infertility worldwide. PID comprises a variety of infections caused by different bacteria that affect the reproductive organs, appendix, and parts of the intestine that lie in the pelvic area.

Increased risk for infertility is associated with the following:

* Multiple sexual partners (increases risk for sexually transmitted diseases)
* Sexually transmitted diseases
* History of orchitis or epididymitis in men
* Mumps (men)
* Varicocele (men)
* A past medical history that includes DES exposure (men or women)
* Eating disorders (women)
* Endometriosis
* Long-term (chronic) disease such as diabetes

Symptoms

Infertility has no easily-recognized symptoms. In fact, most individuals do not even realize they are infertile until they try to conceive a child. For women younger than 30, some health professionals will diagnose a couple with infertility and offer treatment only after 3 years of trying to become pregnant. 1 For women over 35, some health professionals encourage beginning testing and treatment after 6 months of trying to become pregnant.

Treatment

Most experts suggest that couples with no known fertility problems should seek help only after one year of regular unprotected sex.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. For example, if ovulation is a problem then medication can be given to stimulate the ovaries. Surgery may be used to treat endometriosis or to remove fibroids from the womb.

Keep in mind that some infertility problems are more easily treated than others. In general, as women ages, especially after 35, her chances of getting pregnant decrease and her risk of miscarriage markedly increases.

Treating health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, or changing the prescription drugs used to treat them may also reduce infertility for some individuals.

The vast majority of reproductive surgery can be performed endoscopically on an outpatient basis. Using a laparoscope (a type of endoscope) inserted through the naval, the surgeon can remove scar tissue, treat endometriosis, remove cysts on the ovaries, and unblock the fallopian tubes.