What is Infertility : Causes Methods & Treatment

What is Infertility : Causes Methods & Treatment

What is Infertility - There are strict terms of definitions of infertility as used by many medical practitioners. However, other similar terms such as subfertility for a less severe condition and fecundity for a natural probability to conceive. Doctors who specialize in infertility consider a couple infertile if:

a) They have not managed to conceive after 12 months of normal intercourse i.e. intercourse without the usage of any contraceptive methods, and if the female is under 34 years of age;

b) They have not managed to conceive after 6 months of normal intercourse, and if the female is over 35 years of age; and

c) If the female is not capable of carrying a pregnancy to full term.

If a couple has tried normal intercourse for a year or more without success, they are considered to be subfertile. Causes for subfertility are very often the same as those for infertility.  A somewhat more informal definition of infertility would be the biological inability of a man or a woman to contribute towards conception, or a woman’s inability to carry a pregnancy to full term. There may be many causes of infertility, some of which we can circumvent with medical procedures.

Even women who are naturally fertile go through periods of infertility during the menstrual cycle. There are methods which can be used to determine the period of fertility within a cycle, by monitoring the changes in basal temperature or cervical mucous. Medical science sees infertility as being of two kinds, primary and secondary. A couple is considered to be suffering from primary infertility if they have never been able to conceive, whereas in the case of secondary infertility, the couple is not being able to conceive after having conceived and carried a normal pregnancy previously.

A woman may be infertile because her ovaries do not mature and release eggs. In such a case, proper medication may be used to rectify the problem. Infertility may exist in either sex. The causes that affect fertility in either sex may be genetic, combined infertility or unexplained infertility.

Genetic causes are

  • Hypothalamic-pituitary factors:
  • Kallman Syndrome
  • Hyperprolactinemia
  • Hypopituitarism
  • A Robertsonian translocation in either partner may result in recurrent spontaneous abortions or total infertility.
  • Diabetes Mellitus, thyroid disorders or adrenal disease.

In some cases of combined infertility, both the male and female partners may be either infertile or subfertile, the combination resulting in infertility. In other cases, genetic or immunological factors may prevent the couple from conceiving even though both partners are individually fertile.

In a few cases, investigation reveals no abnormalities. It could be that any abnormalities present are not detectable by methods used today. Infertility treatment can be through medication or in vitro fertilization or the various developments stemming from IVF such as ICSI, ZIFT or GIFT. It can also be through insemination, where fertilization takes place inside the body. There are other techniques too.

There are a number of issues, some of which are ethical, involved with infertility and its treatment.

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