By Dr. Rajeev Agarwal, IVF Speciality
Infertility is the incapability of a couple to conceive after indulging in unprotected sex multiple times over a long period. It can also be referred to as the biological inability of a man to cause conception or a woman to conceive as well as being unable to carry the pregnancy for the whole duration. Research has shown that female problems contribute to over half of all the infertility cases.
Causes of infertility in include:
- Ovulation Disorders – This is regarded as the most common cause of infertility in women. The disorders can be caused due to conditions like PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), Premature ovarian failure, poor quality of eggs, overactive or underactive thyroid gland and chronic conditions like cancer or AIDS.
- Problems in fallopian tubes or uterus – Abnormalities in the uterus or fallopian tubes render the woman incapable of conceiving naturally. This might be due to conditions like Endometriosis, previous sterilization treatments or surgeries to correct past problems.
- Medications or Treatments – There is a possibility of some treatments affecting infertility. Examples include NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy.
Usually, the initial steps for diagnosing infertility involve a review of the complete medical history of the patients as well as a physical exam. Post this check-up, some diagnostic tests are conducted for infertility. This might include-
- Blood and Urine tests: For checking hormone levels.
- Pap smear: For checking the health of your cervix.
- X-ray: For outlining the internal shape of the uterus so that blockages in fallopian tubes can be identified.
- Age – Increasing age tends to lower the quality as well as quantity of a woman’s eggs
- Smoking – Besides damaging your cervix and fallopian tubes, smoking increases your risk of miscarriage. It is also believed to deplete your eggs at a premature stage, thereby reducing your chances of pregnancy.
- Weight – Normal ovulation is hindered by being overweight or even significantly underweight. This is because lower levels of BMI (body mass index) reduces the frequency of ovulation, reducing the chances of pregnancy.
- Sexual history – Sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and Chlamydia can cause damage to the fallopian tubes, resulting in infertility.
Even though it is possible to restore fertility in women using only one or two therapies, a number of treatments might be required before conception is possible. Some of these treatments include:
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI): deliberately introducing sperm into the uterus of a woman for achieving pregnancy.
- Stimulating ovulation with fertility drugs.
- Surgery to restore fertility.
In situations where pregnancy does not happen spontaneously, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) can be used by couples to achieve a pregnancy. It is any form of fertility treatment which involves the handling of sperm and egg. The entire ART team consists of psychologists, physicians, embryologists, nurses and lab technicians.
One common ART technique is In vitro fertilization (IVF). It is a process where an egg and sperm are manually combined in a laboratory dish, followed by transfer of embryo to the uterus.