Infertility is a disease that affects millions of people globally, characterized by the inability to conceive even after 12 months of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. The causes of infertility can be found in the male or female reproductive system, or both. This article discusses the different causes of infertility, the importance of addressing infertility, and the challenges that come with it.
Causes of Infertility in Women
Infertility in women can be caused by different factors. The most common causes include:
Tubal disorders, which are caused by untreated sexually transmitted infections, complications of unsafe abortion, postpartum sepsis or abdominal/pelvic surgery.
Uterine disorders, which could be inflammatory in nature, congenital in nature, or benign in nature.
Disorders of the ovaries, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and other follicular disorders.
Disorders of the endocrine system causing imbalances of reproductive hormones.
The relative importance of these causes may differ from country to country, for example, due to differences in the background prevalence of sexually transmitted infections or differing ages of populations studied.
Causes of Infertility in Men
Infertility in men can also be caused by various factors. The most common causes include:
Obstruction of the reproductive tract causing dysfunctionalities in the ejection of semen.
Hormonal disorders leading to abnormalities in hormones produced by the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, and testicles.
Testicular failure to produce sperm, for example, due to varicoceles or medical treatments that impair sperm-producing cells.
Abnormal sperm function and quality, negatively affecting fertility.
Lifestyle factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake, obesity, and exposure to environmental pollutants and toxins can also affect fertility.
The Importance of Addressing Infertility
Infertility is an essential part of realizing the right of individuals and couples to found a family. It negates the realization of essential human rights, such as the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and the right of individuals and couples to decide the number, timing and spacing of their children.
Addressing infertility is also essential to mitigate gender inequality. Women, in particular, are perceived to suffer from infertility, regardless of whether they are infertile or not. Infertility has significant negative social impacts on the lives of infertile couples, and particularly women, who frequently experience violence, divorce, social stigma, emotional stress, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Inequities and disparities in access to fertility care services adversely affect the poor, unmarried, uneducated, unemployed, and other marginalized populations. Various people, including heterosexual couples, same-sex partners, older persons, individuals who are not in sexual relationships, and those with certain medical conditions, such as some HIV sero-discordant couples and cancer survivors, may require infertility management and fertility care services.
Challenges in Addressing Infertility
Availability, access, and quality of interventions to address infertility remain a challenge in most countries. Diagnosis and treatment of infertility are often not prioritized in national population and development policies and reproductive health strategies and are rarely covered through public health financing. Moreover, a lack of trained personnel and the necessary equipment and infrastructure, and the currently high costs of treatment medicines, are major barriers even for countries that are actively addressing the needs of people with infertility.
Infertility affects millions of people globally, and the causes can be found in the male or female reproductive system, or both. Addressing infertility is an essential part of realizing the right of individuals and couples to found a family and mitigate gender inequality. However, the availability, access, and quality of interventions to address infertility remain a challenge in most countries, and concerted efforts are required to overcome these barriers.
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