By – Dr. Pallavi Prasad, Fertility Consultant at NOVA IVF Fertility, Basaveshwaranagar, Bengaluru
Infertility has several possible causes which make it difficult for couples to achieve parenthood. In women, infertility problems may occur concerning ovarian function, obstructed fallopian tubes, or uterine abnormalities like fibroids whereas, in men, infertility can be the result of disrupted testicular or ejaculatory function, poor quality semen, or a hormonal or genetic condition. Ignorance in maintaining fertility health may result in infertility- a condition where couples cannot get pregnant despite numerous attempts.
Women should be aware of their menstrual cycle because getting pregnant is all about the timing when the conditions are favorable for the egg and sperm to meet. The first criteria are to figure out the period when you are most fertile. The average menstrual cycle for most women lasts for 28 days, which means Day 9 to Day 14 each month is the time frame when you can conceive.
Women should not overlook irregular periods
While a woman tries to conceive, she should not overlook irregular periods because irregular periods may be a sign of anovulation, a condition when an egg or ovum doesn’t release from your ovary during your menstrual cycle. During the menstrual cycle, a mature egg is released but when ovulation does not occur, the cycle is anovulatory in nature. Even though anovulation is not a disease, it is stated that consistent anovulation indicates an underlying fertility or hormonal issue.
Besides anovulation, there are other causes such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and thyroid disease which may cause delay in achieving pregnancy.
In both men and women, certain risk factors contribute to infertility. A few of them include-
Age: The likelihood of a successful pregnancy begins to decline with age. The decline may be minimal during the initial stages, however the rate of decline in fertility begins to accelerate around 35 years of age with a rapid fall beyond 38 years of age.
Weight: Weight also plays a crucial role when it comes to fertility. One should maintain an ideal weight to achieve pregnancy because being overweight or severely underweight can affect the ovulation process.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea or HIV can adversely affect the fertility rate in both men and women.
Smoking: Smoking (including passive smoking) affects your fertility health and decreases your chance of conceiving as it causes sexual dysfunction in men and women both.
Alcohol: Consumption of alcohol may affect the quality of the sperm and can also pose risks to the unborn baby in the later stages of pregnancy.
Environmental factors: Environmental conditions may also affect the fertility rate of men due to exposure to certain pesticides, solvents, and metals.
Stress: Couples need to avoid stress at all costs. Stress can affect the ovulation process as well as sperm production and may result in loss of sex drive.
This shows how one should maintain their fertility health and avoid these risk factors to increase the chances of getting pregnant.
Some couples require help while conceiving
In these cases, doctors may prescribe medications to stimulate ovulation and may recommend these options-
Intrauterine insemination (IUI): A process where a long, thin tube places sperms directly into the uterus.
In vitro fertilization (IVF): IVF is an assisted reproductive technology (ART) that involves harvesting the eggs at the end of the stimulation and placing the sperm and eggs together in a lab dish. After the sperm fertilizes the egg, the fertilized egg (embryo) is transferred into the uterus.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): Here, a single sperm is injected into each of the harvested egg and then the embryo is transferred into the uterus.
Egg Freezing: Also known as mature oocyte cryopreservation. This is a method that is used to save a woman’s ability to get pregnant in the future. The eggs which are harvested from the ovaries are frozen unfertilized and stored for later use so that they can be thawed, combined with sperm in a lab, and implanted in the uterus.
Conclusion: – If the woman is above 35 years and the couple is unable to conceive post 6 months of unprotected sex, please visit a fertility specialist. On other hand, If the woman is below 35 years and the couple is unable to conceive after 1 year of unprotected sex, they need to seek fertility consultation.