Why The Infertility Blame Game Is So Last Century

For centuries, woman have been the subject of infertility blame and scrutiny. But is it actually a man’s problem? And seriously- should it matter?

Fertility Of The Gods

Infertility is a tale as old as time. Literally. Difficulty with conception has been a major social and medical fixation throughout human history, dating as far back as the ancient Egyptians. Medicine at the time was steeped in magic, and infertile women had their own fertility god, Nephtys. However, problems conceiving were not considered divine punishment, but an illness that needed to be diagnosed and treated. Women underwent thorough examinations based on the idea that the genital organs were in continuity with the rest of the body. This way of thinking was adopted by many medieval physicians and practised for hundreds of years. Male infertility was also often discussed in ancient medical records.

Centuries later, Jewish medicine would dominate, and embrace a more biblical view from the Old Testament. Religion was science, and sin was believed to be the reason women were not fruitful to “multiply and replenish the earth”. Problems conceiving were considered a divine curse, and male infertility was not recognized. This belief and fear prevailed throughout the Middle Ages.

Coming Of Age

It was not until the Renaissance that magic and the gods were replaced by the first real concepts of modern medicine. Breakthroughs in medicine and science soon resolved many mysteries of the human anatomy and in particular, the female body. By 1562, very primitive forms of artificial insemination emerged as husbands were being advised to put their finger in the vagina after intercourse to promote conception. Although great advancements were being made, infertility was still synonymous with women. It was rare the man was considered as the cause.

During the next several hundred years the world would witness the first “test-tube baby”, born in 1978, and in 1981, the first baby via IVF. Today more than 5 million babies have been born thanks to fertility research and the science of in vitro fertilisation.

Click Here For Your: Full IVF Treatment Guide 

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So Who’s To Blame?

The short answer is- no one. Today nearly 1 in 6 couples need medical help to have a baby. Yet, despite incredible achievements in modern medicine and the knowledge physicians and scientists have about fertility, society as a whole still points the infertility finger in one direction.

Women

Women may face infertility problems for a number of reasons, most notably being age.

Women are born with a finite number of eggs- one to two million to be exact. These eggs are stored in the ovaries and released throughout the reproductive years, usually beginning between the ages of o10-15 years old. With each year of ovulation, the number and quality of eggs diminish. By 30 the chances of having a baby begin to decrease by 3-5% each year. After 40, fertility reduces to an even greater extent. For women who wish to begin a family later in life this can be a major issue, and IVF is often a last resort.

Other leading causes include damage to the fallopian tubes, which can be caused by pelvic infections, endometriosis, and scarring from previous pelvic surgeries. The fallopian tubes carry the eggs from the ovaries to the uterus, and damage may prevent contact between the egg and sperm. Hormones may also be the culprit. Some women experience problems with ovulation and the synchronized hormonal changes which promote the release of an egg from the ovary and the thickening of the uterine wall. The changes simply do not occur.

Men

Of the 1 in 6 couples who need help conceiving, nearly half of them are experience infertility as a result of poor sperm quality. Unlike women, men produce a constant supply of sperm, producing about 1,500 per second. During a single male orgasm, millions of sperm may be released, but only one will successfully fertilise the egg. Thanks to semen analysis, fertility specialists are able to determine a males sperm count, quality and motility. Many young, otherwise healthy, men are being affected and researchers believe it is a combination of diet, lifestyle and “gender-bending” chemicals. In other 1-5% of cases, the cause of male infertility may be due to a blocked duct, obstructing the semen from ejaculating fully.

While the lack of knowledge about male infertility is prevalent throughout society, the frightening part is the ignorance about infertility some healthcare systems continue to demonstrate. Often without hesitation, focus is put on the woman when couples seek help. This could led to many invasive, complex (and costly) fertility treatments.

In an interview with Mail Online, UK couple, Dennis and Kelly Robinson, open up about their experience with the NHS and male infertility.

When Dennis and his wife Kelly, 33, went to their GP after struggling for 18 months to conceive, the doctor referred them to a gynecologist- by definition a specialist in women’s problems, despite the fact Kelly must have been fertile because she already had a son, Edward, from her previous marriage.

Kelly was subjected to half a dozen invasive examinations and tests which continued for more than a year and at one stage left her with a dangerous post-operative infection. Unsurprisingly, they all the showed she was fully fertile.

It was only then that medical attention was directed towards Dennis. Two straightforward and quick tests performed two months apart showed he had a very low sperm count.

The problem with male infertility is not that it exists, but that no one, including some medical professionals, is willing to talk about it. More and more studies also suggest that the male infertility epidemic is not a personal problem, but a major public health crisis.

Sedentary lifestyles and obesity can sabotage the reproductive capacity of men, as well as long-term harm from cigarettes. It’s even been found that by-products from some plastics mimic the effects of female hormones in the male body and are damaging to sperm.

Read More: IVF Explained In 5 Easy Steps

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Can Infertility Be Prevented?

Infertility may occur for a number of reasons, so their is no fool proof way to ensure prevention. However, to protect fertility, specialist strongly encourage both men and women to lead a healthy lifestyle. This includes:

  • Avoiding smoking cigarettes and marijuana
  • Avoiding exposure to harmful chemicals
  • Avoidong excessive alcohol use
  • Limiting sex partners and using condoms to reduce the risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection
  • Stay at a body weight that is close to the ideal for your height

Infertility is not a “woman’s problem”- or a man’s

When partners find themselves having trouble conceiving, the first step is not to point fingers, but to consider both parties. Often times infertility is due to difficulties from both sides. It is necessary to find a medical professional or specialist who promotes testing the fertility of the man and woman before proceeding with any further procedures.

Also, and possibly more import, infertility can be emotionally draining. For couples who have dreamed of starting a family, experiencing infertility problems can be devastating. Furthermore, the testing and treatments themselves can be exhausting and frustrating. Instead of looking to the gods and playing the century old blame game, couples should approach infertility together-as a team.

Having Trouble Getting Pregnant? Talk To A Fertility Specialist Today About Your Options

 

IVF Explained In 5 Easy Steps

Light is finally being shed on the once “hush-hush” infertility conversation, but the IVF process is still relatively unknown.

Not so long ago, In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), seemed like something out of a sci-fi novel, coining the term, “test tube baby”. Today, advances in science and technology have long since turned the dream of starting a family into a reality for millions of couples and single parents. To better understand how IVF works we’ve broken it down into five easy steps.

1. Stimulation

After the initial consultation with a physician, which includes a standard STD test, sperm sample, and treatment plan, the woman is given a daily dosage of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This stimulates the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. During a woman’s natural cycle, several eggs develop in the ovaries but only one will reach maturity. Stimulation hormones are used so that several eggs in the ovary develop and mature. (7-10 days)

2. Egg Retrieval

Approximately one week after the first dose of hormone stimulation, a final dose of HCG is given to help promote egg maturity. Once the eggs are sufficiently matured, ovulation is induced and the egg retrieval process is safe to begin. This is generally done under general anesthesia and anywhere from 5-15 eggs may be removed. A fresh sperm sample may also collected from the male it this time. (approx. 30 minutes)

To complete one full IVF cycle it usually takes patients between 15-21 days. If travelling for IVF, patients may consider dividing their treatment into two trips. 

3. Fertilisation In Vitro

After the retrieval, the eggs are immediately taken to a lab where they are introduced to the sperm. Only some will become fertilized, and they will then be left to develop for 1 – 5 days. While waiting, the woman is typically given a special medication (progesterone) to help thicken the lining of the uterus and prepare for the embryo transfer. This is intended to increase chances of an embryo adhering to the uterine wall and developing naturally.(1-5 days)

Are you and your partner thinking about IVF? Check out the full IVF Treatment Guide

4. Embryo Transfer

At last, the embryos are ready to be transferred. It is not uncommon that two embryos be transferred in order to increase the success rate- however this is at the patient and physician’s discretion. Any fertilized embryos that are not used during the transfer can be cryopreserved and used for further transfers (cryo-embryo transfers). An hour after the embryo transfer is complete, the process is complete and the woman may go home. (5-10 minutes) 

5. Pregnancy Test

Two weeks after the embryo transfer, the woman is required to take a pregnancy test. This will reveal if the IVF cycle was successful or not. It is not uncommon that couples go through several cycles of IVF before successfully getting pregnant. Patients are usually asked to wait one or two complete menstrual cycles before beginning another IVF cycle.


Travelling For IVF

As the demand for IVF continues to grow, many patients are looking abroad to schedule their treatments- keeping quality high and costs down. Central Europe, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Greece have become popular destinations for hopeful couples. If you are thinking about travelling abroad for IVF, it is important to consider the time frame you are working in. If manageable, patients will sometimes split their cycle into two trips. For those travelling further distances, one trip is usually preferred. 

Trip 1: (1-2 Days)

With the help of a medical travel platform, patients are easily put in contact with their clinic and physician, and can go ahead and schedule the initial consultation. During this consultation routine testing, possible sperm sample and treatment plans are completed and the hormone stimulation medication is administered. After this the patient may stay or go home. 

Trip 2: (about 5-6 days) 

After taking the stimulation medication for 7-10 days, the patient will return and prepare for the rest of the cycle. This includes the egg retrieval, sperm sample, fertilisation period and embryo transfer. After the transfer is complete the patient is free to leave. The two week pregnancy test may be taken at home. 

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