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Is infertility becoming more common?

Nowadays, Infertility is becoming more common among young individuals across nations. This is not a taboo topic anymore because it’s the need of the hour. The number of individuals who are becoming infertile is increasing day by day and it urges us to talk right now. In this article, we are going to discuss its causes both in men and women. Before going any further, there is a need for understanding the term infertility.

What is infertility?

When a couple cannot conceive after having regular unprotected sex is called infertility. It may be that one partner cannot contribute to conception, or that a woman is unable to carry a pregnancy full time. It is often defined as not conceiving after 12 months of regular sexual intercourse without preventive measures.

Infertility can affect both males and females and can result from many different causes. About 1 in every 10 couples is infertile, or somewhere between 10 and 15 per cent of the population.

Normal fertility depends on the production of a good number of healthy, motile sperm by the male and the delivery of those cells into the vagina. It also depends upon the successful passage of the sperm through the uterus and into the fallopian tubes, and penetration of a normal egg by one of the sperm. A successful pregnancy also requires that the fertilized ovum subsequently become implanted in the lining of the female uterus. If there is any problem in any one of the processes, it causes infertility in couples.

Factors that can have many effects on reproductive capacity in both men and women include alcohol consumption and drug use, a history of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and a number of general medical problems including obesity, and diabetes. The impact of smoking on reproduction is considerable. Cigarette smoke contains hundreds of toxic substances, the negative health effects of which have been well documented. By interfering with the production of sperm, smoking can adversely affect male fertility. In women, smoking can affect different stages in the reproductive process, from the pickup of the egg by the fallopian tube to the growth and development of the fetus.

Here there are many other factors that are directly affecting the fertility of both women and men. Let us understand the factors that are making a woman infertile.

Female infertility

Female infertility may be caused by ovulatory, endometriosis, cervical, and uterine factors, as well as by advanced age. The presence of adhesions (rubbery or filmy bands of scar tissue) in and around the fallopian tubes interferes with the ability of the tube to take up the egg after it has been released from an ovary; it can also affect the movement of the sperm through the tube.

Causes of female infertility

Female infertility can be caused by:

1. Endometriosis

2. Problems with the fallopian tubes

3. Problems with the uterus

4. Ovulation problems

5. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS / PCOD )

1. Endometriosis 

Endometriosis is a condition in which cells from the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) migrate to other parts of the pelvis. It can damage the fallopian tubes and the ovaries, and affect the movement of the egg and sperm.

Even if the fallopian tubes and ovaries are not damaged, endometriosis can affect fertilisation, embryo growth and implantation.

2. Problems with the fallopian tubes 

The sperm fertilises the egg on its journey down the fallopian tube. A blocked or scarred fallopian tube may impede the egg’s progress, preventing it from meeting up with sperm.

3. Problems with the uterus 

The fertilised egg lodges (implants) in the lining of the uterus. Some uterine problems that can hamper implantation include:

  • fibroids – non-malignant tumours inside the womb
  • polyps – overgrowths of the endometrium, which can be prompted by the presence of fibroids.

4. Ovulation problems 

The menstrual cycle functions by several glands and their hormones work in harmony. For ovulation to occur, a part of the brain called the hypothalamus prompts the nearby pituitary gland to secrete hormones that trigger the ovaries to ripen eggs. Irregular or absent periods indicate that ovulation may be irregular or absent too.

The age of the woman is a significant fertility factor. The chance of pregnancy for a woman aged 40 years is only 5% per menstrual cycle. Ageing eggs are thought to be the cause.

A woman is born with her entire egg supply and, as time passes, these eggs become less viable. Other difficulties for women over 40 include an increased risk of miscarriage and genetic abnormalities in the unborn baby.

5. Polycystic ovary syndrome ( PCOS / PCOD )

At ovulation, the ovaries produce small cysts or blisters called follicles. Typically, one follicle ripens to release an egg. In polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the follicles fail to ripen, instead of forming little cysts at the periphery of the ovaries which often release male sex hormones. This means that the woman’s ovulation and periods are irregular or don’t happen at all.

These are the major causes which are affecting the fertility of women. One cannot say this is the exact reason for the cause of infertility because there are many other minor reasons which can also be potential reasons. In the next blog, male infertility causes and treatment will be discussed.

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