The causes of infertility can be complex but are more common that what one might think. It is estimated that one in six couples experience infertility. Infertility is defined as the failure to conceive after having had regular unprotected intercourse over 12 months. The causes of infertility are varied but studies have found that around 40% of the problems related to infertility are related to the female, 40% to the male, while 20% of cases are unexplained.
The irony of infertility is that most people spend the better part of their lives trying to avoid getting pregnant, only to find out later that there may be problems in trying to conceive.
Various causes of infertility in women may include:
- Ovulation disorders
- Hormone imbalance
- Ovarian cysts
- Blocked fallopian tubes
- Fibroids or polyps
- Scar tissue, adhesion’s or evidence of earlier infections
- Low progesterone levels
- Sexually transmitted diseases and pelvic infections
- Hostile mucus
Identifiable factors which may be causes of infertility in males include:
- Abnormal sperm including low sperm count, poor sperm motility and poor sperm morphology
- Anti-sperm antibodies
- Vasectomy and vasectomy reversal
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Damage to the testes
- Ejaculation problems
- Sperm blockage
- Hormonal imbalance
Western medicine can help overcome many of these problems. However, many treatments such asor In Vitro Fertilization are quite expensive and may have side effects. In some cases, additional treatment may be required to cure the side effects.
In IVF and ICSI () eggs are collected from follicles in the ovary via surgical procedure. They are then transferred in-vitro (outside the womb) so that they can be fertilized by the sperm to form an embryo. Once successfully fertilised, the embryo is then transferred back inside the women’s uterus 2-5 days later.
IVF is often suggested when natural methods fail to give results. It should be noted that before extracting eggs, the woman generally takes several hormones to help stimulate the ovaries into producing and maturing more eggs than what would normally be released naturally. Although the IVF process aims to replicate nature, the process of taking eggs from the ovaries, fertilizing them in an outside laboratory and putting them back in the uterus is not natural and involves the use of artificial stimulants.
In the normal process, the human body helps pave the way for only the most healthiest of sperm to make their way to the egg and penetrate it but in the artificial process, the decision is made by an embryologist. Whilst a lot is known about sperm and what healthy sperm looks like, it does not mean that the sperm chosen will be the healthiest one that is picked. This is because scientists still have gaps in their knowledge about sperm and are still undertaking further research on this topic.
Some alternative techniques are fast becoming popular in order to cure the problem of infertility. These techniques are often more preferred as they have less or no side effects at all. Acupuncture, for example, is very effective in cases where female infertility has been caused by some kind of malfunction of the ovary.
In the alternative treatment techniques, diet and lifestyle changes are very important. Regular intake of caffeine from beverages like coffee, chocolate, cocoa, green tea (containing caffeine), black tea and colored soft drinks is believed to have harmful effects on conception. According to a study, one and a half cups of coffee for a woman who is trying for pregnancy is likely to delay conception. Thus, it is recommended that coffee is avoided for people who suffer from infertility.
Good results for the treatment of infertility have also been reported through holistic approaches such as Chinese medicine, acupuncture and reflexology. These alternative approaches suggest that a natural remedy and a way of life that can really solve the problem as soon as the real cause is determined.
A. Anderson is a researcher and writer on infertility and IVF. She has in depth knowledge on the subject after having personally undergone IVF at a world leading clinic and having undertaken alternative methods such as Pregnancy Miracle., Naturopathy and Acupuncture. To find out more information about holistic treatments check out