June is universally celebrated as “World Infertility Awareness Month”, so let’s use this opportunity to raise awareness about different facets of infertility. Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive even after one year of unprotected sexual contact. Worldwide the prevalence of infertility has been on the rise for the last few years. Approximately 10-15% of the couples in the reproductive age group are facing difficulty in conception, and require medical support to expand their families.
It is critical that the reasons for this rising trend are to be addressed at the earliest. Experts all over the world understand that the phenomenon is multifactorial, as we see a rising trend in the prevalence of obesity, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure (hypertension), anxiety disorders, malignancies (cancers), etc. Similarly, we are also witnessing an increase in the prevalence of infertility. Changing lifestyles and dietary habits, increasing pollution and adulteration, are largely responsible for these multifactorial disorders.
From this, we can infer that the first step towards restoring fertility is adopting a healthy lifestyle, which includes:
- Adequate sleep and exercise
- A healthy and balanced diet (rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber)
- Quit smoking (it has a harmful effect on semen parameters and egg quality)
- Reduce alcohol intake
- De-stress with meditation and other healthy activities like playing, reading or gardening, etc.
- Spending quality time with your partner, which is becoming a challenge nowadays, as both the partners are working and occupied in shifts during their fertile period.
Most of the reasons are understood, but some are yet to be explored. But yes, one should consult an Infertility expert if there is no conception after 1 year of trying or after 6 months if the age of the female partner is more than 35 years. The Infertility expert will help in identifying the underlying cause, which has to be properly diagnosed and investigated, before embarking upon any treatment.
Another myth, which surprisingly still seen in some families and societies is that the female partner is solely responsible for the inability to conceive.
If we see the causes of infertility, the distribution is almost equal between female and male:
- Male factors- 35-40% (problems in the sperm count or motility, or sometimes difficulty in having a sexual contact )
- Female factors – 40-50% (the most common ones are Ovulatory dysfunction, including the so much discussed PCOS; and Fallopian Tube block)
- Combined factor- 10-15% (sometimes, both the partners can have an issue which hampers normal conception)
- Unexplained – 10-15% (In some couples, the exact cause cannot be found out, but then there are scientific ways to treat such couples too)
Thus, I would like to emphasize here that investigating and counseling both the partners simultaneously is extremely important. The reasons also include, a shift towards late marriages, late planning of conception, unawareness about the limited ovarian reserve as the number of eggs in ovaries depletes with age. Generally, there will be a sharp drop in the number of eggs after 35 years of age, and at 40 years, many of them would actually require donor eggs. With the help of Science and technology, most of the infertility challenges can be addressed. Now there are facilities available for couples to time the pregnancy by egg freezing (Oocyte Vitrification). But we know, “A stitch in time saves nine”, and so, timely consultation with an expert and timely investigation & treatment can definitely avoid so many hassles and can bring a boon in form of a healthy baby, completing your families.
Hope this article was informative and was successful in elevating your awareness of infertility. We will continue our efforts to create further awareness throughout this month as part of ‘World Infertility Awareness Month.
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About The Author:
Dr. Sangita Sharma is the Unit Head & Consultant (Reproductive Medicine), Manipal Fertility, Jaipur with over 10 years of experience in the field of Reproductive Endocrinology, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) : IVF, ICSI and Fertility Enhancing Laparoscopic & Hysteroscopic Procedures. She has contributed in more than 2000 IVF cycles for infertile couples. She did 2 years Fellowship in Reproductive Medicine (FNB) from the prestigious Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi. She was trained in Gynaecological Endoscopy from Kiel School of Reproductive Medicine & Gynaecological Endoscopy (Germany).
Dr. Sangita Sharma received the prestigious International Healthcare Award 2016 as the “Most Promising IVF Consultant in Jaipur”. She is presently the Secretary of Indian Fertility Society (IFS) Rajasthan Chapter.