Latest Catalogue Infertility

Infertility

DEFINITION

Infertility is the inability to conceive after one year of regular, unprotected intercourse. It may be a result of biological factors affecting either the male or female partner.


DESCRIPTION

For a woman to become pregnant, a number of events need to occur. A woman must produce an egg which develops normally and is released (ovulation) to be fertilised by sperm. The resulting embryo must be transported to the woman's uterus and implanted where it grows and matures. If any of these events do not occur, or are disrupted, Infertility will result.
Major factors which contribute to Infertility include problems with male sperm, ovulation, internal tubes and cervical mucus. In approximately 10% of cases, no specific cause can be identified.

 

Male factors
- Exposure to high temperatures. It takes 72 to 74 days for sperm cells to develop. Optimum growth occurs at 34 degrees Celsius (93.2 degrees fahrenheit). Higher temperatures (excessive heat or fever) may affect fertility.
- Physical abnormalities.
- Poor blood drainage from the testes (resulting in higher temperatures).
- Ejaculation into the bladder.
- Hormone disorders.
- Genetic disorders.

 

Female factors
- Inability to produce eggs.
- Failure to ovulate.
- Blocked fallopian tubes.
- Scarring of the uterus.
- Inability to produce cervical mucus in sufficient quantity or of sufficient quality.

 

Lifestyle factors
- Obesity.
- Tobacco.
- Alcohol.
- Caffeine (tea, coffee, caffeine containing soft drinks).
- Dieting, fasting and malnourishment can also cause temporary Infertility.
- Stress.
- Exposure to industrial or environmental toxins.
- Recreational drug use.
- Exposure to stilboestrol or anabolic steroids.


TREATMENT OPTIONS

- As with all conditions, your Doctor should be consulted to diagnose and treat this condition. Identifying the cause of your infertility is important as it may affect the choice of treatment.

- A complete medical examination should be carried out on both the male and the female partner. See the Infertility Tests topic for more information on the diagnosis process.
- Structural problems, such as a blocked fallopian tube may require minor surgery.

- Your Doctor may prescribe fertility drugs to stimulate ovulation.

- Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) includes treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) etc
- See the Infertility Treatments topic for more detailed information
- Avoid smoking, exposure to toxins, stress, excessive alcohol and other recreational drug intake.


DIET HINTS

- There is no particular diet that will directly enhance fertility, however, maintaining good health through sensible eating and regular exercise may help to encourage conception.
- Include plenty of vitamin E-rich foods such as almonds, sunflower seeds, raw wheat germ and wholemeal bread.
- Use olive oil as a base for cooking rather than butter or other fats.
- Include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in the diet. Five servings per day are recommended.
- Try to drink between 6 to 8 glasses of freshly filtered water each day.
- Include foods rich in zinc, such as oysters, seafood and lean red meat. Folate is also important and is found in dark green leafy vegetables.
- Avoid drinks which contain caffeine such as coffee, tea and cola drinks.
- Adequate protein is important for people who are trying to conceive. Lean red meat, skinless chicken and fish are good sources of protein. Vegetarians may need to combine grains and legumes (beans, peas, lentils etc) in the same meal and take a B group vitamins supplement containing vitamin B12. Brewers' yeast is a good source of B vitamins.


VITAMINS/MINERALS/HERBS

See the topic Infertility - Supplements.
- A folic acid deficiency may cause Infertility in women..
- Vitamin B6 may increase progesterone levels and benefit female Infertility. Vitamin B6 is required for RNA and DNA synthesis.
- A deficiency of vitamin B12 may be associated with male Infertility.
- Vitamin C may protect against oxidative DNA damage to sperm. Vitamin C may also protect sperm from cigarette smoke damage. Vitamin C is thought to prevent sperm from clumping and improve sperm motility.
- A deficiency of zinc is believed to be associated with oligospermia (insufficient sperm in the semen), decreased sperm motility and decreased testosterone levels. These problems may result in male Infertility.
- Low iron levels in women may result in Infertility. Iron supplementation is most effective when given with vitamin C.
- Vitamin E is required for balanced hormone production. Vitamin E is known as the 'sex vitamin' because it carries oxygen to the sex organs.
- Natural beta carotene may be important for reproductive gland function.
- False unicorn root (Chamaelirium luteum) may help to normalise ovarian function when female Infertility is associated with erratic ovulation.
- Some types of Infertility may respond to chaste tree berries (Vitex agnus castus), particularly if associated with elevated prolactin levels.


PHARMACIST'S ADVICE

1) If you need help to stop smoking, ask your Pharmacist about the range of anti-smoking products available.
2) Consider some nutritional supplements if the diet is inadequate. Studies have indicated that vitamin E and other antioxidants may help to enhance male fertility by reducing the destruction of sperm in the body by oxidation. Evening Primrose Oil and the herb Vitex agnus-castus, taken regularly, may help to regulate the female menstrual cycle.