What is infertility?
Infertility is the inability to get pregnant even after having repeated intercourse in a span of at least one year. It affects males and females in equal measure. In females, it is difficult to identify the cause for infertility. The most common signs of infertility in women are an irregularity in menstrual cycle or distortion in its length (more than 35 days or less than 21 days).
Common reasons for infertility in women
- Disorders that prevent ovulation – Ovulation and fertility are related as ovulation is the process of the egg being discharged from the ovary into the fallopian tube, where it eventually gets fertilised. There are various diseases that cause infertility by preventing ovulation, such as PCOS, premature ovarian failure, excess prolactin and hypothalamic dysfunction.
- Damage of the fallopian tubes – It is a condition where a blockage of the fallopian tube prevents the passage of sperms through it and inhibits fertilization. It could also affect the process of fertilisation by blocking the fertilized egg from travelling to the uterus.
- Endometriosis – This is an abnormality where the tissues of the lining of the uterus are present elsewhere such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the linings of the pelvis. This causes blockage in the path of the ovum and the sperm or the fertilised embryo depending on the stage and position that is affected.
- Age – With age, the number of functional eggs starts to dip in a woman, thereby increasing the chances of infertility. Hence fertility after 40 falls considerably.
- Smoking – Nicotine present in cigarettes affect fertility in a huge way. It damages the fallopian tubes, affects the ovum health as they develop and also increase the chances of having miscarriages.
- Weight – Infertility has been attributed to both being underweight and overweight.
Medical procedures for infertility
Infertility can be treated through certain medical procedures. The following procedures are done as infertility treatment:
- Hysteroscopic or laparoscopic surgery – This surgery involves removal or correction of abnormalities such as blockages, scar tissues etc. to improve the chances of getting pregnant.
- Tubal surgeries – It is a type of surgery that is conducted on the fallopian tubes to remove blockages.
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI) – This is a procedure where numerous healthy sperms are positioned within the uterus at the time of ovulation to ensure fertilization.
- Assisted Reproductive Technology – In this technique the mature eggs are retrieved from a woman’s body, there after in vitro fertilisation is conducted under a controlled atmosphere in a lab and the resultant embryo is then implanted into the womb.
Lifestyle measures that can reduce the risk of infertility
An interesting find in a research conducted under the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) to understand the trends of childlessness and fertility problems in India, showed that the risk of infertility is significantly higher in urban women than in rural women. This speaks volumes about the effects of urban life on a woman’s health. To prevent this, women can adapt certain lifestyle measures such as:
- Avoiding alcohol and drugs
- Planning a family at the right age
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Practising safe sex