Infertility appears to be a problem when a woman cannot conceive despite having regular unprotected sex and with a desire to produce a child. Medically speaking, infertility is defined as a problem when unprotected sex occurs for a period to 12 months without conception.
Worldwide, between 8% and 12% of couples experience problems with infertility, and despite the fact that it is often blamed on the woman, around 45% - 50% of cases are believed to stem from factors affecting the male.
One of the main causes in men is a low sperm count, In fact, a low sperm count is thought to be a factor in one in three couples who are trying to produce a baby. A low sperm count is where the man has less than 15 million sperm in one millilitre of semen. That is still quite a lot of sperm when you consider that it only needs one sperm to produce a pregnancy. Nonetheless, that is the way it is.
Another problem may be the ability of the sperm to swim. They may not be able to reach the egg as quickly as they should, and this can result in the inability of the woman to conceive. Another situation occurs if the sperm are not of the right shape which can also cause problems with fertilising the egg. Around 2% of men are thought to have abnormal sperm, and in addition abnormal semen may not be able to carry the sperm effectively.
There may be several causes of abnormal semen such as a testicular infection, surgery, or cancer. There could be a deficiency of testosterone or there could be ejaculation disorders such as blocked ejaculatory ducts which may cause the semen to be ejaculated into the bladder instead of through the penis into the vagina.
There can be several other causes, such as mumps. If a child suffers mumps after puberty this can cause an inflammation of the testicles. Anaemia, diabetes, thyroid disease, and Cushing’s disease can also affect sperm count. Cystic fibrosis is another problem: it usually affects the lungs but can also obstruct the vas deferens which carries sperm from the epididymis to the ejaculatory duct and the urethra.
Another problem can be genetic factors which could result in a man having two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome where he should have one of each. In this case, the testicles will develop abnormally and there will be low testosterone and sperm count, or possibly no sperm at all. Chemotherapy can also significantly affect sperm count.
Yet another problem today is the widespread use of illegal drugs. Consuming cannabis and cocaine can have a considerable effect on the sperm count. Bodybuilders who use anabolic steroids on a long-term basis can also suffer from problems.
Being overweight or even obese also reduces the chance of conceiving, whether it is the male or the female who is overweight, or both. Excess alcohol consumption has also been proven to increase the risk of infertility.
Then there is the question of age. Male fertility starts to decrease after the age of 40, while in women it begins at around 32. Exposure to things such as herbicides and pesticides has also been shown to reduce fertility.
Another element that has become very important in the 21st century is stress. We live in an age where stress affects almost everyone to a greater or lesser degree. Money worries – suffered by a large percentage of the population – together with worries about work status and attempting to achieve a higher step on the career ladder can have a devastating effect on fertility without the individual concerned being aware of it.
One of the ways of dealing with all these possible problems of infertility is the Chinese Traditional Medicine of acupuncture. Acupuncture for fertility in London has been used in recent years and has been found to have some dramatic results, especially in cases of stress.
It has to be accepted that acupuncture has not been subjected to many scientific tests, and those that have been carried out have been mixed in their outcomes. However, it is also a fact that many men and women who have opted for acupuncture for fertility problems have been delighted with the results that have allowed them to become parents for the first time.