Infertility is the inability to conceive or sustain a pregnancy to full term. Causes may be biological or other, including those which can be treated by medical intervention. Estimations suggest that between 3-7 percent of couples or women have an unresolved problem of infertility.
Causes of Infertility
- Damage to fallopian tubes: This tube carries eggs from ovaries to the uterus, where the baby develops. Therefore, damage in this tube can prevent an egg to reach the uterus and sperm to reach an egg.
- Hormonal problems: There may be the issue of hormone imbalance that doesn’t allow the egg to release from the ovary and the formation of the lining of the uterus.
- Cervical problem: It is a condition in which sperm is unable to pass through the cervical canal into the uterus.
- Uterine trouble: The woman may have fibroids that interfere with the pregnancy.
- STDs or other infections: Genital infections like chlamydia can cause infertility in men.
- Blockage: In some cases, the males are born with blockages in parts of the testicle that prevent sperm from getting into the semen.
- Retrograde Ejaculation: A condition in which semen doesn’t come out of the penis during ejaculation but instead enters the bladder.
- Genetic diseases: Rarely, genetic illnesses such as cystic fibrosis or chromosomal disorders can cause infertility.
- Autoimmune: When the immune system mistakenly targets sperm cells and treat them as if they are a foreign antigen, therefore, damaging the sperms.
- Hormonal problems: Certain hormonal imbalances in the pituitary and thyroid glands can cause infertility.
- Sexual problems: Impotence and premature ejaculation can have an impact on fertility. The erectile dysfunction can be because of mental health issues such as anxiety, guilt, or low self- esteem.
Treatment for Infertility
- In-vitro Fertilization (IVF): It is an ART (Assisted Reproduction Technology) process in which fertilization is done in a laboratory dish by combining an egg and sperm. Then the embryo is transferred into the woman’s uterus.
- Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA)/Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE): In these processes, a small amount of testis tissue is taken by biopsy. TESA and TESE are surgical methods that are used to retrieve sperm if the partner (male) does not have sperm in his ejaculation.
Sperm production and delivery rely on a system of tubes located within the male reproductive system.
- Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): It is an efficient method used to fertilize eggs in the IVF lab by injecting sperm into the mature egg collected from the female. Its primary use is for significant male infertility cases.
- Intracytoplasmic Morphologically Selected Sperm Injection (IMSI): The treatment is a variation of ICSI. This process uses an even higher power magnification to visualize inside the sperm, allowing the doctor to pick the sperm with the greatest chance of achieving a successful fertilization.
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI): It is a form of assisted conception process. During IUI, the doctor injects selected, washed sperm into the womb (uterus) of a female at the time of ovulation.
- Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT): It is the use of multiple eggs collected from the ovaries. The eggs are placed into a thin tube along with the sperm to be used.
The gametes are injected using a surgical process called laparoscopy into the fallopian tubes.
- Zygote Intra-Fallopian Transfer (ZIFT): It is a combination in vitro fertilization (IVF) and GIFT. The goal of using this method is to implant zygote (fertilized eggs) is transferred directly into the fallopian tube, not in the uterus.
- Pronuclear Stage Tubal Transfer (PROST): It is almost similar to ZIFT, and uses IVF. But it transfers the fertilized egg into the fallopian tube is before cell division occurs.
There are many causes of infertility; the issue may be with a female, a male or in some cases with both. But as the science and technology is advancing new treatment options are also being introduced which increases the chances of a woman to conceive and have a successful pregnancy.