Infertility can affect both males and females. In Canada, infertility accounts for as many as 15% of couples – that’s 1 in every 6 – making it more of a widespread problem than one might think. Infertility is characterized by the inability to achieve pregnancy/conceive after approximately 12 months of unprotected intercourse, and without the use of any oral contraceptives (birth control.) Infertility is more common in women, affecting approximately 40% to 50% percent, while it affects about 20% to 30% of men.
In this article, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, shares information on some of the most common causes of infertility in both men and women.
In women, infertility can be due to a number of different factors, such as irregular menstrual cycles, hormonal imbalances, a history of any STIs or STDs, fibroids in the uterus, blockages in the fallopian tubes, and developing early menopause. The ability to conceive also decreases after the age of 35. In men, infertility can also be the result of hormonal imbalances and a history of sexually transmitted diseases/sexually transmitted infections, as well as having a low sperm count or a poor quality of sperm. Other common, combined factors of infertility in both men and women include the use of alcohol and tobacco, being over or under weight, as well as certain chronic illnesses and treatment for cancer (such as radiation or chemotherapy.)
In order to reduce the risk of infertility and increase the chance of being able to conceive, women should check with their physician or OBGYN to make sure that a hormonal imbalance is not the cause. It’s also important that you avoid drinking alcohol or smoking, eat a healthy diet, and get regular exercise. It’s also quite common to experience a constant emotional roller coaster whenever you are dealing with fertility issues; you may feel a sense of loss, hopelessness, and social isolation. If you are experiencing these kinds of emotions or stress, it is important to speak with someone you trust. This can, again, be a medical professional, such as a family doctor, a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, friends, or family members that you trust and have a close bond with. For couples that are struggling through infertility, it is also important to do different activities together that will help to divert from the stress you’re experiencing.
To check for infertility, certain tests – such as blood tests and urine samples – may be done. Depending on your test results, those responsible for your care will decide upon the best options for fertility treatments – which can include drugs to induce ovulation, intrauterine insemination – also known as IUI, and IVF – also known as in-vitro fertilization.