What does infertility mean?

Infertility and sterility are two different things. 

Infertility is diagnosed after a couple has had well-timed unprotected intercourse over a period of one calendar year without conceiving. If the woman is over 35 years of age. This diagnosis is made after 6 months. This does not mean that one cannot become pregnant. There may simply be factors that may make conception more difficult 

Sterility on the other hand is diagnosed after a thorough medical examination indicating that the patient has lacks a uterus, no ovaries, no sperm or extremely low and/abnormal sperm, and no ovum production. 

Q1: Is infertility a “woman’s problem?”

Infertility is a medical problem and is caused by the female factor in 30% of the cases and the malefactor in 30% of the cases. The remaining 40% is caused by dysfunction that is contributed by both parties. However, in 20% of the cases, the cause may not be clearly defined. 

Q2: What are the signs and symptoms of infertility?

Often there are no signs or symptoms that occur with infertility. Regular checkups are necessary to determine the presence of any hormonal imbalances or other underlying and undetected illnesses that may contribute to the prevalence of infertility in order to catch them early and treat them. 

However, when they do occur, symptoms include; 

For women ;

  • Abnormal, irregular, or painful periods 
  • No periods 
  • Skin changes, including more acne 
  • Changes in sex drive and desire 
  • Dark hair growth on the lips, chest, and chin 
  • Loss of hair or thinning hair 
  • Unexplained weight gain 
  • Hot flashes 
  • Painful intercourse or inability to have intercourse 
  • Milky breast discharge

Symptoms for men include; 

  • Pain, lump, or swelling in the testicles 
  • Problems with erections and ejaculations 
  • Small, firm testicles 
  • Changes in hair growth 
  • Changes in sexual desire 

Q3: What role does age play in causing infertility? 

Age is the single most important factor in causing infertility in women. A woman is born with a fixed number of ova (eggs). As the woman ages, the eggs decrease in both quantity and quality as one ova matures and is shed during each menstrual cycle. As age increases, the chance of conception reduces. 

Q4: Does age affect male fertility as well? 

The quality of the sperm begins to decrease at the age of 40. However, the rate of decline of sperm quality happens at a low rate.  

Q5: How do I identify whether I have infertility? 

A couple is advised to try to conceive for a period of one year. You may consult with your doctor to determine the best time to have intercourse to maximize the chances of conceiving and also to evaluate for any obvious underlying conditions that may lower the chances of conception. 

After a year, the doctor will take a thorough medical history to screen for risk factors that may reduce chances of conception in both parties, perform a physical exam, and may also request for some radiological (imaging) procedures to assess the anatomy of the reproductive organs (A gynecological exam and pelvic ultrasound for the woman)A semen analysis can then be performed on the man and a hormone analysis on the woman.  

Worth noting is that one major cause of infertility among women is anemia. Anemia is a condition where there are not enough healthy red blood cells in the blood to transport oxygen around the body. Over 50% of urban women are anemic and therefore is worth exploring for those experiencing infertility. Symptoms include paleness, one easily fatigued, breathlessness at rest or when doing simple tasks, dizziness, and headaches. 

Q6: Is there a cure for infertility? 

There are numerous fertility treatments available. Some popular treatment modalities include intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The fertility specialist can evaluate and recommend specific treatment modalities based on the findings that are present during the evaluation. In some cases, emotional support greatly increases the success of fertility treatments as the psyche has been found to play an important role in conception. 

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