Infertility is commonly defined as the inability to fall pregnant after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse. Infertility affects around one in six Australian couples of reproductive age.
There are multiple causes of infertility. While often related to either the male or the female, it can also involve a combination of factors. There may be issues with the production of sperm or eggs, the function of male or female reproductive systems or hormone conditions.
Causes of female infertility
A woman's age is the single most important factor affecting a couple's chance of pregnancy. If you are over the age of 35 and have been trying to become for six months, Dr Gailani recommends seeking assistance. If you are under 35 assistance should be sought after 12 months of trying.
Factors that can affect infertility include:
- Problems with the fallopian tubes
- Ovulation disorders
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Pelvic inflammatory disease caused by sexually transmitted diseases
Causes of male infertility
Male infertility can occur due to hereditary factors, medical abnormalities or lifestyle influences, including alcohol and drug use.
Male fertility can be affected by problems with sperm production or the transport process including:
- Blocked or absent tubes
- Low sperm number or poor sperm production
- Abnormal sperm
- Failure of sperm production
- The occurrence of anti-sperm antibodies
- Genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis or chromosomal abnormality
Treatment and diagnosis
A medical evaluation can determine the reasons for a couple's infertility. This process usually involves assessing both partner's medical history, physical examinations and tests.
To treat infertility, your doctor will create a personalised plan for you and your partner.
Treatments may include:
- Ovulation cycle tracking
- Drugs to rectify female ovulation or sperm production
- In vitro insemination (IVF)
- Artificial insemination
- Fertility surgery