Infertility is a problem of the reproductive system. It affects the body’s ability to reproduce, and can be caused by a problem with the man’s reproductive system, the woman’s reproductive system, or both. For a woman to become pregnant several conditions must be met, including:
The man must make healthy sperm.
The woman must make healthy eggs.
The fallopian tubes must be open to allow sperm to reach the egg.
The sperm must be able to fertilize the egg.
The fertilized egg must implant in the uterus.
The embryo must be healthy.
Infertility occurs at a 40/40 percent split between male and female contributed issues. The other 20 percent is either unexplained or a combination of factors. There are various issues that a woman may experience resulting in infertility. Women who do not produce enough hormones to develop, mature and release a healthy egg may have ovulation problems. Other hormonal imbalances can negatively affect ovulation. Anatomical problems can prevent a women’s egg from meeting the sperm. Endometriosis disorder causes tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus to grow outside the uterus. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection caused by a type of bacteria such as gonorrhea and Chlamydia, and can affect the uterus, fallopian tubes, and the ovaries. Immune system problems may lead to pregnancy loss.
Issues resulting in male infertility are equally as vast. Men who are low or absent in sperm production reduce chance of fertilization. Abnormalities to sperm function may occur resulting in sperm having head or tail defects that prevent it from swimming and penetrating the egg. Varicocele is a condition in which varicose veins develop around the testes, causing low sperm production. Hormone disorders can also effect sperm production and fertility. Chromosome defects are linked to male infertility, and birth defects can happen during fetal development caused by abnormalities in a man’s reproductive system. Just like the women’s immune system, men can also have anti-sperm antibodies. Some lifestyle habits can also affect sperm quality and function, such as the use of recreational drugs, heavy alcohol use, smoking, taking certain medicines, or too much heat to the genital area.
To diagnose infertility, both the man and woman are tested. Both partners go through a specialized exam to track their health and sexual history to find out if they had sex at the right time. Females must go through a physical exam to rule out infection. Ovulation evaluation, hormone testing, and ultrasounds are also used during the initial evaluation. An x-ray known as hysterosalpingogram is helpful in identifying uterine and tubal problems. Males have to undergo a semen analysis to check the sperm count. Men may be sent to an urologist for further testing if abnormalities are identified.
The good news is that infertility can be treated, and options are available so that couples can safely and successfully conceive. If you think you are not able to get pregnant, schedule a visit to discuss your concerns with your health care provider early. Your provider will discuss the best treatment with you based on your age, overall health and medical history, tolerance for specific medicines, procedures or therapies, and your opinions and preference.
Jessica Salas Mann, M.D., FACOG, is an experienced reproductive surgeon and infertility specialist, board certified in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is on staff at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center. Dr. Mann’s areas of clinical interest and expertise are pregnancy loss, ovulation induction, in vitro fertilization, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and third party reproduction. Dr. Mann educates her patients and works with them to develop the best plan to help them build their family, while respecting their unique wishes. Her office is located in Suite 340, 2 Hospital Plaza, at Raritan Bay-Old Bridge. To make an appointment, call 1-800-DOCTORS.
With locations in Perth Amboy and Old Bridge, New Jersey, Raritan Bay Medical Center delivers critical world-class healthcare services care to Monmouth and Middlesex County residents. As providers of first-class healthcare in the areas of stroke, cardiology, cancer, physical rehabilitation, pulmonary rehabilitation, pediatric medicine, Raritan Bay Medical Center continues to stay on the forefront of medicine.
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