Tests for Men
Male and Female Infertility
A few things need to take place before a successful pregnancy can take place:
The female body needs to produce a healthy egg
The male body needs to produce healthy sperm
The female ovaries needs to release the healthy egg and the egg needs to be successfully transported to the womb
The male testes need to successfully release the healthy sperm into the female’s womb (through sexual intercourse)
The healthy egg needs to meet a healthy sperm to form an embryo
The embryo needs to successfully implant itself in the female’s womb
If any of the above events fail to take place, infertility results.
What Causes the female body to produce unhealthy eggs?
There are many possible reasons why some women are unable to produce healthy eggs. The reasons can be roughly fit into 2 categories:
Problems with Ovulation
There are many reasons behind irregular ovulation. Most are linked with hormonal imbalances caused by endocrine disorders, such as thyroid disorders, hypothalamic dysfunction, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
Our endocrine system is a network of glands that release chemical messengers in our body. Known as hormones, these chemical messengers regulate to bring balance to our bodies. For example, when we eat our meals, insulin is released from our pancreas to activate the absorption of sugar in our bloodstream. Similarly, hormones are released from our ovaries and other glands to regulate the menstrual cycle of females and sperm production in males. If there is an issue with any part of our endocrine system, especially the hormones affecting our reproductive organs, fertility is affected.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal imbalance that affects the development and release of eggs from the ovaries. A woman can have PCOS if her ovaries appear polycystic in a pelvic ultrasound, she has irregular periods, or has abnormal levels of male hormones in her body.
Problems with Egg Quality and Ovarian Reserve
All females are born with a fixed supply of eggs inside their ovaries. As a woman ages, this supply gradually decreases until menopause. Some factors, such as lifestyle and diet, environmental factors, medical issues, and genetics, can accelerate this decrease in supply. Some women (under 40 years old) suffer from premature ovarian failure. With lower estrogen production in their bodies, the body does not ovulate, resulting in infertility.
Poor egg quality can also be defined by abnormal eggs. Eggs with genetic defects can become fertilised, but the pregnancy may not progress.
What can cause the egg to be unsuccessfully transported to the womb (in the female body)?
When released from the ovary, the egg is transported down the fallopian tubes to the womb. If there is an obstruction in the fallopian tubes, the egg is unable to reach the womb. Just like how traffic flows on our roads. If there is an obstruction, a traffic jam can occur. If the road is closed, vehicles cannot pass through.
Fallopian tubes can be physically blocked or damaged by scarring. Scarring can be caused by a variety of factors, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. Fallopian tubes can also be blocked by liquids that change the shape of the tubes. Called hydrosalpinx, this condition can be caused by previous surgeries, infections and endometriosis.
What can prevent the embryo from implanting in the womb (in the female body)?
Implantation failure is when a fertilised egg is unable to implant in the womb. This usually suggests that the conditions in the womb are not conducive for the fertilised egg to implant itself. The presence of polyps, fibroids and scar tissue can disrupt the fertilised egg. An endometrium lining that is too thin or too thick is also an unconducive environment for implantation. Endometriosis (a condition where tissue that forms the lining of your uterus, the endometrium, grows outside of your uterine cavity) and adenomyosis (a condition where endometrial tissue grows inside the muscles of the uterus, making the uterine walls grow thicker) also make it difficult for the fertilised egg to implant in the womb.