Symptoms of Infertility
Infertility is the medical term related to the failure in conceiving despite having regular, unprotected sex for 6 months to 1 year, as per your age.
Primarily, not able to conceive or get pregnant is the biggest and the most obvious symptom of infertility. In most cases, that is the only apparent symptom and the patient might not experience any other symptoms.
The reason behind the infertility is the birth-giver of the symptoms that a patient is experiencing. Sometimes there are no visible causes and in some cases, there are other health conditions that negatively impact the patient’s ability to get pregnant.
In women, if there is a sudden alteration in the ovulation timings or in the menstrual cycle, then it can be a symptom of disease leading to infertility. Symptoms being:
- Menstrual bleeding which is heavier or lighter than usual.
- The monthly cycle of the periods is not consistent and the days in between 2 consecutive periods are varying considerably.
- No periods. Either you have not experienced the period yet, or there is a sudden, unexplainable stop in their occurrence.
- Sudden pain in the back area, pelvic area, and cramps in the abdominal region, that start with the onset of period.
In some cases, hormonal issues can lead to infertility. If you are experiencing a combination of 2 or more of these symptoms, then it can be a symptom of hormonal issues.
- Sudden change in your skin texture and increase in acne
- Loss of libido (desire to have sex)
- Increase in hair growth on lips, chin, and chest
- Hair thinning and loss of hair
- Sudden unexplained weight gain
Some strong indicators of problems that may cause infertility are:
- A milky white colored discharge coming from nipples, which is not related to breastfeeding.
- Pain while having sex
Infertility Symptoms in Men
In men, infertility symptoms are hard to point out. In most cases, a man may only notice that he has issues leading to infertility when he attempts to become a father. Infertility Symptoms in men can be vague. They may go unnoticed until a man tries to have a baby.
Just as in the female case, the cause of the infertility is the reason behind the symptoms. They can include:
- Unexplained changes in hair growth
- Loss of libido (desire to have sex)
- Swelling, presence of lump or pain in the patient’s testicles
- Erectile Dysfunction (problems in staying erect) or in ejaculation
- Hard and small testicles
When to see a doctor
Unless you have continuously tried to conceive for nearly 8-12 months and have failed in conceiving, chances are you don’t even need to go to a doctor to test yourself for infertility. However, if you are not able to get pregnant after regular attempts for almost a year, then you should definitely pay a visit to the doctor.
But, you may need to contact the doctor earlier, if you’re a woman and:
- You are more than 35 years old and your regular attempts to become pregnant has failed for more than 6 months.
- Your menstrual cycle is not regular
- You are experiencing very painful periods
- You have known fertility problems
- You have suffered pelvic inflammatory disease, or you have endometriosis
- You have suffered miscarriages multiple times
- You have been treated for cancer
Talk with your doctor if you’re a man and:
- Your sperm count is low or there are other problems related to that
- In the past, you have suffered from testicular, prostate or sexual problems
- You have been treated for cancer
- Your testicles are small in size, or your scrotum has experienced swelling
- Infertility problems have been experienced by your family members in the past
Causes of Infertility
Reproduction is a complex wonder of nature which involves a set of processes working out in the right manner. Any issue in any of these processes can lead to infertility. It is possible that any one of the couple or both might have some or the other issue that might be causing infertility. So, the investigation, diagnosis, and treatment should be performed keeping the couple in mind, and not just one person.
Typically, up to 40% of infertility cases are a result of sperm-related issues. A healthy functioning of the male reproductive system involves the production of a healthy number of sperm cells, the sperms should have healthy mobility, and then they should be delivered in the ejaculation. The focus areas of the diagnosis being sperm mobility, form of the sperm, and sperm count.
Even in the female cases, typically 40% of infertility cases are due to issues in female reproductive organs. Common causes of female infertility are mentioned here:
- Ovulatory dysfunction (or anovulation), which is the issue where the ovary is not able to release an egg every month, happens to be the most common reason for female infertility. The reasons behind anovulation can be ovarian scarring, premature menopause or hormonal imbalances.
- Tubal disease, which is basically mild adhesions or even full blockage of fallopian tubes, can be a key factor that stops the fertilized eggs from reaching the uterus, that is, the fertilization site. And because of this, the uterine implantation doesn’t happen. Pelvic infections are the most common causes of this disease.
- Excessive growth of the uterus lining also called as Endometriosis can cause scarring in the ovaries or the fallopian tubes.
In some cases, even after undergoing thorough diagnosis, the cause of infertility is not visible. This can be demotivating and frustrating for the couples because being clueless about the reason causing infertility is as bad as it sounds. In these cases, longer the duration of infertility has been, sooner the couple should consider external intervention.
Here is a list of factors that can negatively impact your ability to ovulate, carry a pregnancy, or conceive:
- Very low or too much body fat
- Chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, asthma
- Your mother took DES when she was carrying your pregnancy
- Irregular cycles, periods lasting more than a week, heavy periods or sudden growth of facial hair are symptoms of hormonal imbalance, which can be the reason impacting your ability to conceive
- Multiple miscarriages or environmental factors (like excessive smoking)
- Age: A woman in her late thirties has almost 30% less chances of conceiving, as compared to her early 20s. So, if you belong to this age group and have tried for more than 6 months to become pregnant, try consulting a doctor.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases(STDs)
STDs can cause various complications in both men and women. Problems like a pelvic inflammatory disease in women or epididymitis in men can be seen. Women have a higher chance of facing complications and can face issues like blocked tubes, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage and ultimately, infertility. Adequate measures should be taken to ensure STDs are not contracted.
Problems related to your fallopian tube can be cause for almost 20% cases of infertility.
Endometriosis is a disease that causes the uterine tissue to be found outside the uterus and on ovaries or fallopian tubes and even on bladder and bowel. If detected early, this issue can be solved easily and should not cause any problems to your ability to conceive. Typical symptoms are painful menstrual cramps, very heavy flow, painful bowel movements during your period, diarrhea, or pain while having sex, etc. If it runs in the family, then you should consult a doctor just to be sure.
Treatment of infertility is standard. It’s a step by step process where you first look for the cause of infertility, then the duration for which you were fertile, age of the partners and any personal preferences
Some causes of infertility can’t be corrected
Do remember that there are some cases where the cause of infertility cannot be diagnosed. In this case, the couple might have to look for assisted reproductive technology (ART) methods where artificial ways of conceiving are used to overcome challenges related to infertility.
Treatment for Men
- Modifying lifestyle: Reducing intake or use of harmful substances and working on the frequency and timing of the intercourse, exercising regularly, and doing some minor improvements in the lifestyle can bring a positive impact.
- Medications: If sperm count or sperm health is the issue, specific medicines that improve the mobility and count of the sperm can increase the chances of becoming pregnant.
- Surgery: In select conditions, like a blockage in the vas deferens or in the case of a varicocele, surgery can improve the probability of conceiving.
- Sperm retrieval: If the sperm count is low or there is no sperm in the ejaculated liquid, or in the cases of ART, specific techniques are used to retrieve the sperm and create chances of conceiving.
Treatment for women
- Stimulating ovulation via fertility drugs: Medicines to artificially induce ovulation is the primary method of treatment. Each process has its own set of pros and cons so understand them by talking to your doctor before going forward.
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI). In this process, the doctor plants a healthy sperm directly inside the uterus timing it with the release of one or more eggs from the woman’s ovary for fertilization.
- Surgery to restore fertility.Problems like uterine septum, intrauterine scar tissue or endometrial polyps can be cured with surgery.
Assisted reproductive technology
ART includes any and all kinds of treatment in which both eggs and embryos are handled outside. A typical ART procedure involves surgically extracting eggs from the woman’s body and combining it with a sperm inside a laboratory, and then either place it back inside that woman’s body or donating it to another woman. IVF or In Vitro Fertilization is the most common ART technique. Some other techniques are Assisted hatching, ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection), Gestational carrier, Donor eggs or sperm.
Complications of treatment
Infertility treatment can lead to one or more of the following problems:
- Multiple births: Sometimes it can happen that more than one embryo might get implanted in the Uterus during the IVF process. This can increase the chances of multiple births. If multiple fetuses co-exist, then such a pregnancy invites some unwanted pregnancy issues like early labor, low birth weight of the baby, or premature delivery. In fact, research indicates that IVF usage increases the chances of premature delivery or low birth weight.
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome: If fertility drugs are injected into the body to induce ovulation, it can cause a syndrome called as Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome which causes pain and swelling in your ovaries. The symptoms can stay for around a week. The patient can experience bloating, vomiting, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. But, the scenario changes if you become pregnant. In that case, these symptoms can last for a couple of weeks too. In some severe cases, rapid weight gain and uneasy breathing can be experienced.
- Bleeding or infection: If the procedure involved was invasive, a rare risk of bleeding or some infection is present.