Subfertility is often confused with infertility. But they are not the same. While the former incidcates a delay in conception, the latter is indicative of the inability to concieve.
Lets say you and your partner have been trying to concieve for a few months but haven’t seen any results, chances are its due to subfertility. But if you’ve been trying without ptotection for over a year, it would make for a case of infertility.
The good news is that subfertility doesn’t mean that you won’t get pregnant. You still have the chance of conceiving naturally but it may take longer than you expected. Lets deep dive into subfertility causes, diagnosis, and treatments to better understand it.
Subfertility Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment: What You Must Know
According to the journal, Human Reproduction, women under age 30 who aren’t able to get pregnant after six cycles of unprotected sex may be considered subfertile. It is after a year of unsuccessful attempts, that patients may be considered infertile.
There are several reasons why a woman might face subfertility. These include issues with ovulation, abnormalities in the uterus, obstruction in the fallopian tube, and/or sperm production and delivery problem.
1. Ovulation issues
A problem with ovulation is the most common cause of subfertility. There are several conditions that can prevent successful ovulation. These include:
Premature ovarian insufficiency (POI): It is also known as premature menopause. In this condition, the ovaries fail before the age of 40. It can be due to either a medical condition or a previous treatment.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Women with PCOS may often but not always have multiple cysts in their ovaries or have hormonal imbalances such as excess androgens (male hormones) and insulin resistance. In PCOS, ovulation does not occur regularly, resulting in menstrual irregularities.
Diminished ovarian reserve (DOR): Here, the ovary loses its normal production capacity leading to reduced egg count and occurs as a result of ageing.
Hypothalamus and pituitary gland conditions: They may interfere with the ability to produce the hormones needed to maintain normal ovary function.
2. Abnormalities in the uterus
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Any abnormalities in the uterus are likely to affect the chances of conception. After all, it is the place where your baby grows. Here are some common uterine problems that can lead to subfertility:
Double uterus: A condition in which the uterus has two small cavities, each with its own opening.
Septate uterus: This is a condition where a band of tissue divide the uterus into two sections.
Bicornuate uterus: This is a congenital abnormality where the uterus has two cavities instead of one and the uterus is heart-shaped.
Fibroids: These are abnormal non-cancerous growths inside or on the uterus.
3. Obstruction in Fallopian Tube
If your fallopian tubes are blocked it will prevent the egg from meeting with the sperm. Hence, this can be a major hindrance to becoming pregnant. It is caused due to the following three factors:
Endometriosis: It is a progressive, chronic condition where cells similar to those that line the uterus (the endometrium) also grow outside of your uterine cavity.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): It is an infection of the reproductive organs in women.
Scar tissue: This could be from a previous surgery an onstruction in the fallopian tube.
Gonorrhoea: It is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection that if left untreated, may cause infertility.
These were reasons why women may be going through subfertility. But it can also happen if there is a medical problem with the male partner. For instance, low and poor count and quality of sperm.
4. Sperm production and delivery problem
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Abnormal sperm production or function can also cause subfertility. There can be many conditions and factors contributing to it, such as HIV, diabetes, and cancer treatment among others.
Another issue is the slow delivery of sperm, which could occur due to premature ejaculation or an injury to the testes. Alternatively, subfertility can be a result of structural defects such as blockage in the testicles.
A proper medical examination will be able to ascertain the problem and your doctor will guide you with treatments accordingly.
Increased Risk Of Subfertility
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There are several factors that can increase your risk for subfertility. Most of them are in fact, the same for men and women.
Female is over the age of 35
Male is over the age of 40
Overweight or underweight
Smoking tobacco or marijuana
Excessive alcohol use
Excessive physical or emotional stress
Increased exposure to environmental toxins, such as lead and pesticides
Subfertility causes: Diagnosis
When you are having a problem conceiving, then see your fertility expert for the right guidance and consultation.
The doctor will conduct a physical examination, including a pelvic exam for women and an examination of the genitals for men. They will also suggest a couple of tests.
Tests for women may include:
blood tests to measure hormone levels
The quality of eggs can be checked by ovarian reserve testing
A transvaginal ultrasound will check the reproductive organs.
Tests for men may include:
blood tests to determine hormone levels
testicular biopsy to identify any abnormalities
Subfertility Treatment: What You Can Do To Conceive Faster
When you are subfertile, you know there is a delayed chance of conception. So your effort should be directed towards increasing the possibility of getting pregnant. For instance, adopt a healthy lifestyle and seek medical advice and treatments as needed. Here’s how you can begin.
Reduce caffeine as it is linked to subfertility in women
Stop consuming alcohol
If you are overweight or even underweight, make sure to maintain a healthy body weight
Avoid saunas because as can affect sperm production and mobility
Eat healthy foods that are rich in essential vitamins and nutrients
In some cases, you may need to seek medical treatment to either increase fertility or recover from a uetrine issue. Similarly, men might alos need to seek medical intervention, in some cases. Here are some of the options that may be suggested
Treatment for women
Fertility drugs to regulate or induce fertility
If you have uterine problems which are posing a hindrance on the way to your successful pregnancy, surgery may be recommended.
Treatment for men
Medication to improve the testicular function, which includes sperm count and quality.
Surgery to repair a testicular blockage
Sperm retrieval techniques may be suggested to obtain sperm in males who have problems ejaculating.
In case of issues with conception, the doctor may suggest assisted reproductive technology (ART). This fertility treatment or procedure handles both– the egg and sperm. It involves removing eggs from the woman’s body and mixing them with sperms to create an embroy. IVF is the most common ART procedure.
If you are facing fertility issues, its advisable to not wait too long and consult a doctor at the earliest. The process of trying to become pregnant can often be emotional and extremely stressful, especially if you have been unsuccessful for a long time. So its important to be proactive but also patient.