Fertility problems, which are the most common in men and women?
According to the latest data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), the birth of children in Spain decreased by 20% in January 2021 Respect to the same month of previously year. The pandemic, together with the precarious situation of many couples and the fact of delaying motherhood more and more, has made increasing the family take a back seat.
But these problems are not the only ones that affect having a baby. The Spanish Fertility Society estimates that in Spain there are between 15% and 20% of couples of reproductive age (about 800,000) who have problems having children. The causes can lie in the man (30%), in the woman (30%) or in both, and there are even cases in which the reason is not identified. The experts from
IVF-Spain, specialists in assisted reproduction and fertility experts with the latest technologies, identify some of the causes of infertility in men and women most common and explain what can be done to improve it naturally.
Main fertility problems in men
In general, the causes of male infertility and that lead to a drop in the quality of the semen sample are related to hormonal disorders, hereditary factors, lifestyle or paternal age. Therefore, some of the factors that affect semen quality are:
—The fertile age of man begins to decline around the age of 45, a more advanced age than in the case of women, which is around 35 years.
—Exercise or extreme sports: Although regular physical activity is good for fertility, exercising excessively and very intensely can alter parameters such as sperm DNA fragmentation.
—Taking food supplements that include the use of steroids to increase muscle mass can reduce semen quality.
-The lifestyle: The consumption of drugs, tobacco, alcohol or weight are other reasons for infertility, since they decrease the number of sperm.
—Other environmental causes: Excessive exposure to certain environmental elements, such as heat (very sedentary occupations), toxins, and chemicals can reduce sperm production or function.
“Having strong and healthy sperm maximizes fertilization and the chances of pregnancy, as well as reducing the chances of miscarriage,” explains Dr. Victoria Verdú of IVF-Spain Madrid. “A healthy diet rich in antioxidants and vitamins (fruits, vegetables, foods containing Omega 3, legumes, etc.) is key to maintaining good sperm quality,” he adds.
Infertility in women
As for women, some of the most common causes of infertility are:
—Maternal age: Women are born with a certain number of eggs that is depleted throughout the fertile life. This decrease in the reserve of eggs also leads to a deterioration in quality, more evident from the age of 35, since from that age the rate of genetic abnormalities carried by the eggs increases. In this way, at 43-44 years of age, 95% of the ovules will have genetic alterations and, therefore, will not give rise to a healthy embryo, greatly hindering the chances of pregnancy and its reaching term.
—Ovulation disorders: There are many hormonal and health problems that women can present and that can interfere with ovulation. These include thyroid disorders, hyperprolactinemia (excessive production of the hormone prolactin), polycystic ovary syndrome or certain pathologies, such as problems such as anorexia nervosa, very intense exercise or very high stress levels.
—Premature ovarian insufficiency: In addition to age, early ovarian insufficiency can also occur due to elements such as hereditary factors or genetic factors, lifestyle or derived from ovarian pathologies, such as endometriosis or ovarian teratomas, which require total or partial resection of some ovary.
—Damage to the fallopian tubes: Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes prevent sperm from reaching the egg or block the passage of the fertilized egg to the uterus, which can be due to several factors that lead to inflammation of the minor pelvis: sexually transmitted diseases, abdominal surgeries involving peritonitis and that can damage the tubes or congenital malformations of the uterus and tubes.
—Endometriosis: Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that normally grows inside the uterus and gives rise to the endometrium (place where the embryo implants), grows and implants itself in other anatomical places, such as the ovaries, the peritoneal cavity, the tubes or the bladder. . Some women with endometriosis have no problems conceiving, but between 30-50% may experience inflammatory difficulties and adhesions that can affect childbearing by altering the fallopian tubes, interfering with the quality and quantity of available eggs and altering the chances of conceiving. embryo implantation.
-Serious diseases: In the case of diseases such as ovarian, cervical or endometrial cancer, it is necessary to undergo operations to remove essential parts of the reproductive system that, although they save the life of the patient, reduce the chances of pregnancy. In other cases, such as breast cancer or hematological tumors, etc., women are forced to postpone motherhood and undergo chemotherapy treatments that can affect the ovarian reserve. In many of these cases, fertility preservation prior to such treatments gives the woman the chance to become a mother after completing her treatment.
—Other risk factors: Bad habits such as the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, an inadequate diet, very strenuous exercise or sexually transmitted diseases can generate a greater risk of difficulties when conceiving.
In order to optimize fertility, where possible, Dr. Victoria Verdu points out that “maintaining an ideal weight reduces the risk of ovulation disorders, both being overweight and being extremely thin are problems that, according to a study, affect the 12% of infertility cases. Stress is also a factor. important. If it’s too intense, it can change hormone levels and cause irregular ovulation or spasms in the fallopian tubes, which contributes to infertility.”
Problems conceiving lead couples to resort to assisted reproduction treatments, which have increased by 28% in Spain in recent years, according to data provided by the Ministry of Health and the Spanish Fertility Society (SEF). When a couple has spent more than a year (or more than 6 months if they are over 35 years old) trying to get pregnant without success, you need to consult a professional and thus raise the possibility of carrying out a treatment, among which are:
-Artificial insemination: technique by which the time of ovulation is tracked, depositing a semen sample inside the uterus during ovulation.
—In vitro fertilization: It is a more complex process but with which it is possible to obtain a number of ovules that are fertilized in the laboratory with the semen sample. With this technique, a lot of information is obtained about the quality of the ovules, the sperm and the embryos obtained, it is even possible to biopsy the embryos to know their genetic load, thus avoiding many miscarriages and failed pregnancy attempts.
—Oocyte vitrification: This treatment consists of the ultrafast freezing of the ovules to use them later. It represents great hope for women diagnosed with cancer who do not want to give up the possibility of being mothers or women who decide to postpone their motherhood beyond the age of 35.
—Donation of Gametes, ovules or spermatozoa: This is a common reality in Spain, since the country’s assisted reproduction law has authorized it for more than 30 years.