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Infertility is the condition used by medical and healthcare professionals that is used to describe the medical state of women who for whatever reason are unable to become pregnant. It should also be noted that this issue is not exclusively a problem with female fertility and indeed men can suffer from infertility that is they are unable to impregnate a woman. The general guideline surrounding the diagnoses of infertility is that if a couple has tried to become pregnant for at least one year then one of the two, or perhaps even both partners may be infertile. Other means of diagnosing infertility relate to men and women who may be infertile as a result of a genetic condition. In particular for women, menstrual irregularities as a result of endometriosis or uterine fibroids may result in infertility as well as women who in the past have been pregnant but who may now be infertile as a result of multiple miscarriages or stillbirths.
In women, infertile is not a term that is used to describe post-menopausal women as it refers to women who are of childbearing years. Importantly, women who can indeed become pregnant but for whatever reason are unable to carry the pregnancy to term can also in certain cases be considered to be infertile.
In general, pregnancy occurs after an egg is released from one of the woman in question’s ovaries. This egg makes its way down the fallopian tube where it is fertilized by the man’s sperm, uniting in a process known as fertilization, before the fertilized egg makes its way to the uterus where it implants and develops over the course of the subsequent nine months. Some women may make use of a fertility calendar in order to note the times, in conjunction with the menstrual cycle, when they are most and least fertile. There are a wide variety of potential causes or combinations of causes that can go wrong in the man or woman along the way. These can include health factors, genetic conditions and even environmental factors.
Infertility in Women
Given the complexities of fertility, particularly in women, there are a number of reasons why attempts by couples to become pregnant may or may not be entirely successful. According to the National Institutes of Health, a large percentage of cases of infertility in women are directly a result of difficulties in the process of ovulation. Difficulties in ovulation may be a result of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) where the eggs that the ovaries release may be released irregularly or may not be viable. Women with this disorder may also have the difficulty whereby a healthy egg may become fertilized, but the uterus may in fact be unreceptive to the fertilized egg. Another condition is premature ovarian failure, which is a condition whereby the ovaries cease to function before menopause naturally occurs.
The risk of infertility in women may include any one of a number of environmental factors, or a combination of environmental and lifestyle factors that may include: genetic conditions, health problems, medications that the individual may be taking or may have taken in the past, smoking, alcohol or other drugs, having a poor diet, experiencing a lot of stress, age related issues, environmental toxins or poisons, as well as conditions that may result from the woman in question being either overweight or underweight.
Infertility in Men
Although not a problem for individual women, infertility for a couple may also be a result of male infertility. However, in some cases the medical health professional may be unable to determine which partner is infertile. However, male infertility is generally a result of difficulties in copulation, such as erectile dysfunction, or specific problems related to sperm such as sperm count, insufficient semen production, and correctly formed sperm.
Similar to the environment and lifestyle factors that can cause women to become infertile, men may become infertile from causes such as undue stress, age related issues, the ingestion of drugs, alcohol or being a smoker, complications due to medications, other environmental toxins or factors, genetic conditions, other health problems or specific issues relating to the temperature of the testes which may be a result of, in some men, wearing underwear that is tight, which keeps the testes against the body, raising their temperature and as a result decreasing the quality or number of sperm produced.
Infertility Treatment / Fertility Treatments
As one might expect, the treatments for infertility are numerous and ultimately must be tailored to whatever myriad or individual factors that it is thought are causing infertility in either partner. Some couples try fertility drugs or herbal fertility treatments, drugs or remedies. However, healthcare professionals may use a combination of factors including the remedying of certain lifestyle factors including stress reduction and diet modification, to more drastic options such as medication and potentially even surgery. The individual treatment option, procedure or lifestyle change made should always be done in consultation with a trained healthcare professional.
It should be stressed that not in all cases is it possible to identify the causes of infertility, to isolate which couple may in fact be fertile or to treat infertility. Fertility treatments have also, in some cases, been the cause of couples having twins, triplets or in some cases many more children at once, which can obviously cause further complications in the pregnancy and cause further health concerns for both the mother and children. Furthermore, it is extremely important that couples who have been attempting to have children for one year or more and who suspect that either partner or both partners may be infertile to contact a trained healthcare professional or their family physician. Once the appropriate tests have been conducted and the causes of the suspected infertility can be determined the sooner the appropriate lifestyle changes, medical procedures or treatments can be affected in order to ensure or at least attempt to result in a healthy and successfully pregnancy despite complications that may have resulted in an original condition of infertility for either partner.