Infertility can be caused by factors relating to the male or female, or both. Sometimes, no cause can be found in either partner. Age is another factor - healthy, young couples have a 20 percent chance of conceiving in any one menstrual cycle. These chances of conceiving are drastically reduced as they grow older.
Causes of infertility in men can include weak sperm, abnormal hormone levels, infections or scarring from a sexually transmitted disease. Women, on the other hand, may experience infertility due to an inability to produce eggs or to ovulate, scarring or blockages in the cervix or tubes, abnormal hormone levels, anorexia or obesity.
If you’re unable to conceive after a year of regular intercourse without using contraception, it’s best to visit your gynaecologist. Older couples may want to consult after six months of trying unsuccessfully.
There are a number of treatments to help with infertility, the most common being In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). A fertilised egg called an embryo is placed in the uterine cavity where it will hopefully implant. The eggs are first extracted from the ovary once they are mature; medication is prescribed to ensure more than one egg matures. After removal with a needle, the eggs are combined with healthy sperm. Once these eggs are fertilised, they are placed in the woman’s uterus. Transferring fewer embryos reduces the risk of multiple pregnancies and any extra embryos may be frozen.
The overall success rates of this treatment vary with the causes of infertility and age of the female partner; the younger the woman, the higher the success rate of IVF.