What is infertility?

According to the World Health Organization, infertility is a pathology of the reproductive system that makes pregnancy impossible. Infertility affects the couple, both the man and the woman, who are unable to have a child naturally. There are two types of infertility. Primary infertility, which affects couples who have not achieved pregnancy after at least one year of sexual intercourse without contraception, and secondary infertility, in couples who have been able to become pregnant and now cannot.

The symptoms and causes of infertility can vary between men and women.

Symptoms of infertility

The symptoms of infertility can vary in men and women.

In women, symptoms may be related to the menstrual cycle and ovulation. They may be abnormal menstruation, with heavier or less bleeding than usual; irregular and intermenstrual menstruation, when the number of days between each menstruation is different each month; amenorrhea, that is, absence of menstruation, and dysmenorrhea, very painful menstruation. There may also be symptoms unrelated to menstruation, such as the appearance of whitish discharge from the nipples (unrelated to lactation) or pain during sexual intercourse.

In men, sperm-related symptoms of infertility may be the presence of yellow or green semen, red or brown spots; very smelly, thick, watery, or low quantity ejaculations. They may also experience symptoms unrelated to semen, such as: changes in hair growth, alterations in sexual desire, erection problems and testicular rigidity.

What are the causes of infertility?

Common causes of infertility among men and women are:

  • Congenital defects of the reproductive system.
  • Cancer, tumors, chemotherapy drugs, radiotherapy.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Hormonal imbalance.
  • Obesity.
  • Scars from sexually transmitted infections, abdominal surgery or endometriosis.
  • Smoking.
  • Advanced age.
  • Pelvic infection.
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In women, infertility can arise as a result of:

  • Autoimmune disorders.
  • Coagulation disorders.
  • Diabetes.
  • Excessive exercise.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Neoplasms in the cervix and/or uterus, ovarian cysts, polycystic ovarian syndrome.
  • Tubal ligation or reanastomosis.
  • Thyroid.

In men, the causes of infertility can be:

  • Impotence.
  • Infection.
  • Consumption of certain medications, such as cimetidine, spironolactone and nitrofurantoin.
  • Retrograde ejaculation.
  • Scarring from sexually transmitted diseases, injury or surgery.
  • Toxins in the environment.
  • Vasectomy or vasovasostomy failure.

Can infertility be prevented?

As a general rule, if infertility is genetic or caused by disease, it cannot be remedied. However, there are certain things that promote infertility that can be avoided:

  • Taking preventive measures against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
  • Do not use drugs.
  • Do not drink alcohol frequently or excessively.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene.
  • In women, go for a gynecological check-up once a year once they are sexually active.
  • In men, wear loose underwear and avoid hot baths, saunas and radiation.

What does infertility treatment consist of?

Methods to treat infertility in men and women are taking hormones to balance the hormonal imbalance, using supplements to improve fertility and taking antibiotics when suffering from infection.

In women, undergoing minor surgery to remove blockage or scar tissue from the fallopian tubes, uterus or pelvic area is another option.

If this does not work, assisted reproductive techniques can proceed.