Male and Female Infertility: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatments

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), fertility, fertility doctor
If you and your spouse are having difficulty conceiving, you are not alone. As cited by the World Health Organization (WHO), infertility is a global health issue affecting an estimated 15% of sexually active couples, amounting to nearly 48 million couples worldwide. Around 1 in every 7 couples may have difficulty conceiving. In this article, we look at the symptoms and main causes of infertility, as well as how infertility can be diagnosed and treated with the best fertility treatments in Singapore.

What is infertility?

Infertility can be defined as not being able to conceive despite frequent (every 2-3 days), unprotected intercourse for at least a year.
There are 2 types of infertility:
  • Primary infertility - when a couple who has never conceived a child in the past has difficulty conceiving.
  • Secondary infertility - when a couple who has had one or more successful pregnancies in the past has a hard time getting pregnant again.

Infertility Symptoms

The inability to conceive is the most common sign of infertility. Infertile females may experience irregular or absent menstrual cycles, while males with infertility issues may indicate hormonal abnormalities, such as changes in hair growth or sexual function, in some circumstances. It is very important that you consult a specialized doctor to find out what issues you might be having.

Infertility Causes

Infertility in Women

Infertility in females is most commonly caused by problems with ovulation.
1. Ovulation Issues
  • PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)
  • Thyroid Issues
  • Premature Ovarian Failure
2. Cervical Mucus Problems: when a female ovulates, the cervical mucus should become thinner, enabling the sperm to swim through.
3. Fibroids: non-cancerous growths that prevent fertilized eggs from attaching to the womb.
4. Surgical Scarring: Pelvic surgery may sometimes damage and scar the fallopian tubes.
5. Endometriosis: is where small fragments of the womb lining grow in other places, such as fallopian tubes.
6. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: this is a condition where the upper female genital tract is inflamed. This can be caused by an infection /a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
7. Medicines and Drugs: the side effects of certain drugs can also affect your fertility.

Infertility in Men

One of the most common causes of infertility in men is poor-quality semen.
1. Semen and sperm quality issues: a low sperm count, abnormal sperm, sperm that are unable to move properly, or no sperm at all. A high scrotal temperature may also significantly reduce the quality of sperm.
2. Ejaculation issues: difficulty in releasing semen
3. Low Levels of Testosterone: Hypogonadism
4. Erectile Dysfunction: difficulty maintaining an erection
5. Testicle Issues: This is where the sperm are produced and stored. Therefore, if the testicles are damaged, it can have a serious impact on the quality of the sperm. Some of the causes are,
  • An infection of the testicles
  • Testicle cancer
  • A congenital defect
  • Testicle injury and surgery
6. Medicine and Drugs: Certain types of medicine and drugs too can result in infertility.

When Should You See A Doctor

According to statistics, 8 out of 10 couples with a female under the age of 40 have a better chance of conceiving naturally. If you have been trying to fall pregnant for over a year and have not been successful, it is advisable that you consult with a medical practitioner to talk about your concerns. Your fertility advisor will take the following essential factors into consideration when deciding the most suitable fertility treatment approach for you in Singapore.

Fertility diminishes progressively with age, especially in the mid-30s, and dramatically after the age of 37. Infertility in older women is most commonly caused by a decrease in the amount and quality of eggs. Men beyond the age of 40 may be less fertile than their younger counterparts.

Alcohol Consumption
There is no safe level of alcohol consumption for women during conception or pregnancy. Infertility may be exacerbated by alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking can reduce sperm count and motility in men.

Tobacco Consumption
Tobacco or marijuana use by either partner may diminish the chances of conception. Smoking can also affect the efficacy of reproductive treatments. Women who smoke are more likely to have miscarriages. In men, smoking can lead to erectile dysfunction and a low sperm count.

Being Overweight or Underweight
If you are obese or overweight, your chances of falling pregnant are compromised. An inactive and sedentary lifestyle can have a significant effect on your fertility levels. Also, if you have eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia or frequently consume low caloric.
Furthermore, your medical practitioner will also request you to share information with regard to previous pregnancies, miscarriages, contraceptive methods you may have used, and the frequency of active sexual engagement, and recommend certain laboratory investigations and carry out necessary physical examinations to arrive at a sound diagnosis.

What Are the Fertility Treatments Available in Singapore?

If you have fertility issues, the treatment you receive will be based on the cause of the problem. There are 3 common treatment options available,
  • medicines
  • surgical procedures
  • assisted conception - including intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) Read more on IVF treatments here

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for infertility and it is not an overnight journey. Depending on the underlying causes and diagnosis, your medical practitioner will assist you in determining the best suitable fertility treatment in Singapore for you. Infertility treatments have advanced significantly in recent years, and there are now widely available treatment options targeted towards helping couples overcome infertility issues. With a variety of methods and treatments to choose from, we can help you achieve your goal of becoming a parent.