Fertility problems are a very difficult thing for any couple to go through. They are especially difficult to bear when it seems like all other couples have to do is think about having a baby and, the next thing you know, they’re talking about possible baby names and picking out colors for the nursery.
To make matters worse, even when they don’t intend to, couples tend to play the blame game as they look for reasons why they can’t conceive – and women often blame themselves more than anyone or anything.
The truth is, that while roughly 30 percent of the time the infertility issue is with the woman, men bear the responsibility another 30 percent of the time. The remaining time there is no known cause for infertility, or there is a combination of factors affecting both partners.
Causes of Infertility
Female infertility can be caused by structural damage to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or the uterus. For example, a condition known as endometriosis causes the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to grow in other places in the body. Parts of the endometrium could block the fallopian tubes, which carry the eggs from the ovaries to the uterus.
Another cause of female infertility is hormonal issues that prevent you from ovulating. Hormonal issues can also affect the lining of the uterus and prevent a fertilized egg from implanting properly. Additionally, although women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, these eggs still need to finish “cooking” before they can be released for fertilization. A hormonal imbalance could cause you to release an egg that’s not ready for fertilization. Finally, some health conditions (like thyroid conditions or diabetes) could interfere with hormonal function and contribute to infertility.
Male infertility can be caused by structural damage or anomalies in the testes and penis. For example, swelling and blockages in the tubes that carry sperm from the testes to the penis could prevent sperm from passing through.
Another cause of male infertility is a lack of viable sperm. This could be due to hormonal issues that lower the amount of sperm a man produces, or underlying health issues that can affect the health and number of sperm he produces.
Age is also a factor in male and female cases. As women age, they might still produce eggs, but those eggs might not be suitable for fertilization. As men age, their sperm counts could drop, or the sperm could become less active.
Treatments & Solutions
Although infertility affects men and women, many infertility treatments are geared toward women.
Fertility drugs for women are usually the first line of treatment for couples with infertility. These drugs go by several different names, but they are all designed to cause women to release multiple eggs with each menstrual cycle. The idea is that giving the sperm more than one target improves the chances of fertilization.
These same fertility drugs could work to make men produce more sperm, but they have not been approved by the FDA for this use, and they are not as effective on men as they are on women.
Surgical treatments usually involve removing any scar tissue that might be blocking the passage of sperm to the egg. Surgical procedures to correct infertility are more often performed on women because the fallopian tubes are wider and shorter than the tubes that carry sperm, making a woman's tubes easier to manipulate.
Assisted fertilization involves manually delivering the sperm to the egg to trigger fertilization. In some cases, the doctor might fertilize the egg in a lab, and then introduce the fertilized egg to the uterus. In other cases, the doctor may “inject” collected sperm into the uterus or fallopian tubes.
The Blame Game
The thing you need to remember in all of this is not to play the blame game. Nobody sets out to have fertility issues. Those of us who have taken Sex Education have pretty much learned that sex = pregnancy and most of us spend part of each sexual encounter either planning for it, or trying to avoid it. Also, most of us don’t even know that there’s an infertility issue until we actually try to get pregnant.
So, as easy as it might be to vent your anger and frustration on your partner, or yourself, the fact is that it won’t do any good, and will only make the both of you miserable.
However, knowing what all the possible issues may be in both partners can help you better deal with them and find possible solutions together.