Is Infertility a Woman's Problem?
Infertility is an unfortunate circumstance that affects the reproductive system and impairs the ability to conceive children. It is estimated that 6.1 people throughout the United States are infertile. Conception and bringing a pregnancy to term are both very complicated and both depend upon a variety of factors. First of all both are dependence on a man's ability to produce healthy and viable sperm while they are both also dependent on a woman's ability to produce healthy eggs. Conception and
pregnancy are also contingent on the fact that the fallopian tubes need to be unblocked in order to facilitate the sperm meeting the egg. Another important factor is the sperm's ability to penetrate and then fertilize an egg once they have made contact. Finally the last two factors are the ability of the fertilized egg, which is developing into an embryo to properly implant itself to the lining of the uterus and the ability for the embryo to develop as it is supposed to do.
But the concern for the pregnancy does not end there. In order for a woman to carry a baby to full term the embryo must be as healthy as possible and it must follow a growth cycle. This is affected by how healthy a woman's hormonal environment is. If any of the above factors is compromised in one way or another, infertility can be the consequence.
It is commonly assumed by society that infertility is a woman's problem, however this is not always the case. Approximately one third of all cases of infertility are attributed to females. In one third of the cases the problem is attributed to males and the other one third is generally either a combination of factors related to both partners or in some cases, the cause of infertility is not known. An estimated 20 percent of infertility cases are connected to unknown causes. Regardless of where the source of infertility lies, this is a problem that negatively impacts both partners.
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For a woman, the search for infertility must also begin with a look at medical history as well as a complete physical. Very often other kinds of medical tests are also needed such as an endometrial biopsy which tests the health of the uterine lining, hormone tests which measure the balance of female hormones, measurements of how well the thyroid is functioning (a TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone level that lies somewhere between one and two is believed to be right for pregnancy to take place) and a laparoscopy which makes it possible for the physician to see all of the pelvic organs.
A measurement of the hormone progesterone is sometimes taken when a woman is in the second infertility services half of her menstrual cycle in order to confirm that ovulation has definitely taken place. A pap smear to look for any signs that there may be an infection or cysts is a necessary diagnostic test for infertility problems. Accompanying a pap smear is usually a pelvic exam that seeks to root out an infection or any kind of abnormalities. Sometimes there are special kinds of X-ray tests that are done to illuminate further the cause of infertility. Postcoital tests done directly after sex were once common to check for the presence of normal secretions due to intercourse however these tests are not often done anymore because they have been proven to yield unreliable results.
The two most common reasons for male infertility are azoospermia (which is a condition where there are no sperm cells produced at all) and oligospermia (which is when there are only a minimum of sperm cells produced). In some instances, sperm cells do not form properly or else they die before they are able to reach an egg and fertilize it. There are rare cases where a genetic disease such as cystic fibrosis or a chromosomal abnormality is to blame for male infertility.
The most common cause of female infertility is a disorder related to ovulation. An other common cause of female infertility is blocked fallopian tubes, which can take place due to endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Repeated miscarriages are often linked to birth defects (or congenital anomalies), which can involve
problems with the structure or makeup of the uterus and/or uterine fibroids. Age also plays a role in a woman's ability to conceive. A woman's fertility begins to decline slightly at age 30 and then takes a significant drop at age 35. After age 40 a woman has a one in ten chance of getting pregnant. The ovaries decline in their ability to produce eggs as a woman advances in years, and this is most readily seen after the age of 35.
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