Lifestyle-related infertility on the rise

Infertility is affecting more and more couples nowadays due to lifestyle-related causes.

Though many people still think of infertility as a woman’s problem, close to half of all cases of infertility involve problems with the men. In fact, about 20% to 30% of the time, a man’s low fertility is the main obstacle to conception, say experts.

In the past, female infertility was accounted for approximately 60% cases, male infertility for 25%, while combined factors were responsible in remaining cases. However, today the male factor is prevalent in 50% cases. One in every five healthy men between 18 to 25 years of age group suffers from abnormal sperm count. In every 100 couples, 40% males suffer from infertility, compared to 50% women. In the remaining 5%, the causes are common in both men and women according to researchers.

Infertility is growing at an alarming rate, especially in metros. It has been estimated that, globally, of the 60-80 million couples suffering from infertility, about 15-20 million are in India alone.

Highlighting the causes of infertility among men, the most common reason is low sperm count and motility of sperm. Other medical reasons are problems with ejaculation of semen, cancer of the genital system or exposure to chemotherapy or radiation therapy, diabetes, mumps in adolescence or immunological infertility where antibodies are formed against the sperms.

Treatment options for male infertility are: medical hormones, multivitamins and antioxidants for a period of three months; surgical treatment selected cases, Intrauterine insemination (IUI), and IVF (in vitro fertilization)/ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection of eggs).

Similarly, experts point out an alarming growth of infertility among young Indian women from the past few years. The rising statistics is due to social changes that have been taking place.

More women are focusing on their careers and are marrying late. The very process of planning a baby is delayed. Even today, most women are unaware of the exponential decline of fertility after the age of 35.

Elaborating further, latest research indicates that 10% urban Indian couples in their reproductive age are infertile. However, among women of 35 years of age and above, it is as high as 30-40%, because women are born with a fixed pool of eggs: one to two million at birth, 3, 00,000-5,00,000 at puberty, which reduces to about 25,000 when a woman turn 37, and further goes down to 1,000 by the time she hits menopause.

From the age of 32, the ability to conceive per monthly cycle decreases gradually but significantly, and goes down rapidly after 37. This shows a decrease in the egg quality. Lack of sexual activity is also a contributing factor. So it’s very important that both men and women go for a check-up at the right age to enjoy parenthood.

In women, the cause of infertility includes tubal disease, ovulatory dysfunction, endometriosis, immunological factors, congenital abnormalities and sexual dysfunction or unexplained factors. Techniques such as in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (IVF-ET) and intracytoplasmic sperm injections (ICSI) have superseded older therapies, and in some cases have provided a back-up when all other therapeutic options fail.

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