One of the stressful parts of life that a person can experience is infertility. This problem is not as uncommon as it happens to approximately 10% to 15% of both male and female populations in their respective reproductive age group (ages 15 to 44 years old). Let us discover all the information we can get about infertility, including the common causes, signs of infertility, and tests to confirm and treat infertility.
What is infertility?
The correct definition of infertility is the inability to conceive or get pregnant after at least a year of trying to bear a child. If you are recently married and are planning to have a baby in the nearest future, it is possible that it will take you some months before getting pregnant, but that doesn’t mean that you are already infertile. There may be some better way to plan your baby-making and your doctor can help you with your family planning.
What scenarios can account for infertility?
- Difficulty becoming pregnant after at least 1 year of trying
- Inability to stay pregnant and have multiple miscarriages
But do not get us wrong, though the second situation is directed towards women in particular, the first one is both for men and women. Not getting pregnant is not only a problem that can be blamed on women alone. It is not fair to look for the signs of infertility on women only. As they say, it takes two to tango. In fact, studies showed that of all the infertility cases covered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1/3 of the reasons are due to male’s reproductive problems.
What causes infertility?
Before knowing the answer to this question, we must know what it takes to get pregnant. Pregnancy begins with ovulation, where the woman’s body must release a healthy egg from her ovaries. The mature egg must travel from the ovary to the uterus safely through the fallopian tube. Sperm then invades the egg and starts fertilization. Once the egg is fertilized, it should implant itself into the uterus, where its growth from an embryo and later into a fetus happens.
In the case of female infertility, the cause is mainly geared towards problems with ovulation. Women with reproductive conditions like early menopause, ovarian cysts, or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), are unable to produce a mature egg each month, making them unable to start reproduction.
Other problems with female infertility include:
- Fallopian tube blockage or disease (a condition caused by pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis)
- Problems with the uterus (uterine fibroids, myoma, inverted uterus, etc.)
- Age (menopause affects the quality and quantity of egg cells)
On the other hand, men can also be the cause of the difficulty of getting pregnant. Common causes mainly affect the quality and quantity of sperm. A low sperm count based on quality and number can be negatively affected by conditions like varicocele, cystic fibrosis, history of mumps and cancer, as well as injuries that may have affected the ability of men to have a healthy sexual intercourse.
What other factors can affect a person’s infertility?
- Excess alcohol use
- Poor diet and exercise
- Athletic training
- Being overweight or underweight
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Exposure to environmental toxins like insecticides, pesticides, and lead
What are the common signs of infertility?
The signs that most men and women experience that make them wonder if they are infertile may be misconstrued most of the time. Our list does not intend to send wrong signals about how you should feel about your partner and yourself. They are just mere examples of what infertility may look like. It is still best to consult your reproductive expert so you can both be guided on how to address these issues and find ways to make things work in your favor.
Common signs of infertility in women
Varying intervals of menstruation every month may be a sign of infertility. Since menstruation is the end stage of your reproductive cycle and the signal of an incoming ovulation, having irregular periods may disrupt your body’s ability to produce a mature egg.
Painful and abnormally heavy periods
Unbearable or excruciating pain during your period may be a symptom of reproductive problems like uterine fibroids, PCOS, or endometriosis.
Absence of menstruation
It is not unusual for women to have an off month once in a while, one time or another. Stress, dieting, or heavy workouts can cause your period to temporarily stop. But if you are still in your early 20s to 30s and haven’t had a period in months, we recommend visiting your OB-GYN or fertility specialist as it may be a sign of early menopause.
We all know that fertilization is managed and controlled by our reproductive hormones. If you have been having symptoms like reduced sexual appetite, skin breakouts, hair thinning but increasing facial hair growth, and weight gain, among others, you may be suffering from a hormonal imbalance.
Painful sexual intercourse
Problems with your hormones or reproductive issues like endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease may cause this fine example of signs of infertility in women.
Common signs of infertility in men
Lack of sexual drive
For men, changes in sexual habits and desire or appetite for sexual intercourse may be due to hormonal problems as well.
Because the testicles store the sperm, it is important that their health is considered. If the testicles are painful to touch and are swelling, it may be a sign of infection or a hormonal problem that may lead to poor quality and quantity of sperm that may end up causing infertility.
Erectile dysfunction or ejaculation issues
The act of introducing the sperm and letting it travel into the female’s reproductive tract is through intercourse. However, if the man is unable to sustain his erection during sex, or prematurely ejaculates, the transportation of the sperm to meet the mature egg may be hindered.
We would like to reiterate that infertility is only diagnosed by doctors who specialize in the reproductive system and fertility. If you have these signs of infertility, it is not a sure sign that you are already infertile. The best way to have a peace of mind and continue with your dream of becoming doting parents-in-the-making is to consult a trusted OB-GYN or fertility specialist so they may guide you better in understanding the situation that you are in.