Making a baby isn’t always easy. Even if neither of you have fertility problems, you have only a 25% chance of falling pregnant each cycle.
Many doctors will not consider a couple has a fertility problem until they have been trying for a baby for at least one year. But one in every seven couples needs some kind of medical help to conceive.
Causes of infertility
One cause of fertility problems for women is Endometriosis – a gynaecological condition where tissue, similar to the lining of the womb, grows in other areas of the body, most commonly on the ovaries, causing inflammation, scarring and adhesions.
Another cause is PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) when a hormone imbalance prevents eggs from maturing in the ovaries. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID); fibroids, STDs, chronic illnesses like diabetes, cancer and thyroid disease can also interfere with fertility.
As many as 25% of couples with fertility problems have a sperm allergy. It can occur in both men and women when an immune reaction makes sperm immobile and unable to swim towards the egg.
Fertility can also be affected by being overweight or underweight, smoking (cannabis or cigarettes). Stress and too much alcohol can also seriously affect your fertility.
The male to female infertility ratio is about 40/60. A man’s health and lifestyle are factors, but medical problems can be to blame, like a blockage in the sperm-carrying tubes – possibly caused by a sporting injury to the testicles, STDs or hernia repairs. Only one in ten of men with blocked tubes are born that way.
Genetic disorders exist, but are rare. Chromosome irregularities can disrupt cell division and sperm production.
Men can also have hormone irregularities. For example the over-production of the female hormone prolactin in men has an affect on fertility.
• Fertility drugs (clomid or gonadotrophins) to stimulate the ovaries to produce more mature eggs each month, increasing the odds of conceiving. Multiple pregnancies are a risk.
• IVF (in vitro fertilisation). Fertility drugs stimulate egg production. These are removed and put into a Petri dish with a fresh sample of sperm. If healthy embryos develop one or two are returned to the woman’s uterus. Remaining embryos can be frozen for the future. If the man’s sperm is unviable a donor can be used.