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What is Sterility?
Sterility, also referred to as infertility, is defined as an inability to conceive a child after trying to do so for at least one year. Sterility can affect both men and women, with the cause involving either one or both parties.
For a man to be fertile, the testicles must produce enough healthy sperm to be ejaculated effectively into the woman's vagina.
For a woman to be fertile, the ovaries must release healthy eggs regularly. In addition, her reproductive tract must allow the eggs and sperm to pass into her fallopian tubes to become fertilized and implanted in the uterus.
Factors that Contribute to Sterility
There are many factors that contribute to sterility such as age, lifestyle, physical, and environmental conditions. Sterility is an emotional journey for the couple trying to become pregnant, and feelings of anger, guilt, and depression are not uncommon.
If you and your partner have been trying for more than a year to become pregnant, or both of you are over thirty and battling, it is good idea consult your gynecologist, obstetrician or urologist for further investigation.
It is important to undergo a thorough fertility evaluation to determine the problem.
Testing for Men
In the case of men, a general physical examination will be performed, with discussions concerning medical history, illnesses, disabilities, medications and sexual habits. Tests such as semen analysis, hormone testing, transrectal and scrotal ultrasound may also be performed.
Testing for Women
Women should track their ovulation by recording their basal body temperature for several months, checking their cervical mucus using a home ovulation test kit.
Additional tests to determine sterility include blood tests, an ultrasound of the ovaries, hysterosalpingography to check for physical problems of the uterus and fallopian tubes. A laparoscopy can check the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus for disease. In many instances, sterility may be unexplained, but fertility treatments will be able to help.
Once a diagnosis has been made, you and your partner can consider the various treatment options.
What Causes Sterility?
Sterility is classified into two groups, primary and secondary.
- Primary sterility means that a pregnancy has never occurred.
- Secondary fertility involves one or both partners who have conceived previously, but are now unable to do so because of a possible physical or medical condition impairing fertility. A woman who keeps having miscarriages is also considered infertile.
Risk factors for both men and women are the same and these include age, stress, being underweight or overweight, diet, smoking, alcohol and drugs.
Age plays quite a critical role, as fertility peaks for both men and women in their mid-twenties. Male fertility starts declining in their thirties, while women older than 35 years may experience problems conceiving.
Certain medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease and anemia may also affect fertility.
The Most Common Causes of Male Sterility
There are several causes of male sterility, including:
- Abnormal sperm production
- Impaired delivery of sperm
- Testosterone deficiency
- Genetic defects
- Undescended testes
Also, erectile dysfunction or low libido can make the process of procreation that much more difficult.
Common Causes of Female Sterility
The most common causes of female sterility include:
- Fallopian tube damage or blockage
- Ovulation disorders
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Early menopause
- Pelvic adhesions
- Benign uterine fibroids
Help for Sterility
Sexual problems such as impotence or premature ejaculation should be addressed. If a lack of sperm is suspected, surgery, hormones and assisted reproductive surgery can correct the problem.
It is also important to increase the frequency of intercourse by having well-timed sex regularly to improve fertility.
Many of these treatment options may have harmful or unpleasant side effects such as nausea, headaches and weight gain. Fertility treatments have also been known to increase a woman’s chance of having twins, triplets or other multiples.