It Takes 2 To Make A Baby, So Stop Blaming Only Women For Infertility!

Watching the recent PregaNews ad made me wonder about the taboo of male infertility. Let me tell you more about male and female infertility.

Watching the recent PregaNews ad made me wonder about the taboo of male infertility. Let me tell you more about male and female infertility.

Infertility! A word that’s been hidden behind closed doors, thanks to all the stigma hovering around it.

In a country that still dreads speaking about menstruation and disregards it as ‘auraton ki beemari,’ it isn’t surprising to see infertility not getting any limelight at all. Especially in recent times when couples are struggling to hold a baby in their arms, ever so desperately.

In fact, not being able to conceive is quite possibly one of the major reasons the relationship between couples leads to conflicts and friction.

The recent Preganews advertisement draws attention to the anguish, distress, grief and torment women have to go through for not being able to conceive. Featuring Mona Singh, the advertisement talks about how a woman is much more than she is perceived. She is a trunk full of talents that aren’t looked at, even if she can’t be a mother.

Let me tell you more about infertility!

Moreover, how a supportive family can make things better for a couple and a woman dealing with family and societal pressure. It’s a fresh change to see topics such as infertility being highlighted by Indian companies today.

This little initiative of awareness by them is the reason why I’ve been compelled to pen this article. Keep reading, I have some interesting facts and figures to share with you.

Surprisingly, the onus of not being able to conceive is often laid on a woman and not the man. Societal pressure and retorts are often reserved for women or as they would say ‘yeh sab aurat ke hisse me hi aata hai.’ (All of is a ‘part’ of being a woman)

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This contorted mentality needs to take a 180 degrees change and nothing less. However, infertility isn’t confined to women only and neither is it restricted to urban areas as thought previously. Fertility rates in rural areas have dipped from 5.4-2.4 in recent times.

Female and male infertility is on the rise!

Infertility happens to be on the rise both in men as well as women. As per reports and data, 27.5 million couples in India are facing the issue of infertility – almost 10-15 percent of married couples and it only seems to be on the rise. According to the data taken from urban areas, female infertility is at 40-50 percent today whereas male infertility stands at 30-40 percent. And in some cases, it could be because of both the partners too.

As per the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction, infertility affects 10-14 percent of the Indian population. It is prominent in the urban areas where one in six couples struggle to conceive.

To add to this, The World Population Prospects 2017 revision report estimates that the fertility rate of Indians has hit a drastic low. The rate has gone from 4.97 during 1975-1980 to 2.3 during 2015-2020.

It is estimated to dip further to 2.1 and may even touch 1.86 by 2045-50 and 1.78 by 2095-2100. Although the population of India is set to surpass China in a few years, the decline in fertility rates of Indian couples happens to be a cause of growing concern, once again.

Infertility is a growing concern now

To surprise you further, doctors have reported that about 45 percent of couples visit them while they are on the road to conception. And that only about 1 percent seek medical intervention in case of infertility.

It doesn’t end here though. A further check reveals that 55 percent of women and 75 percent of men are unaware of ovulation tracking products and fertility monitors that are readily available in the market.

If we talk about state-wise infertility rates, as per the National Health Portal of India infertility may vary from state to state. For example, 3.7 percent in Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Maharashtra, about 5 percent in Andhra Pradesh, and a whopping 15 percent in Kashmir.

After a host of facts and figures, let’s talk about infertility in-depth. Also, please note – we shall talk about infertility in both men and women as it takes two to make a baby.

What is infertility?

According to the WHO, infertility is a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.

Infertility is of two types primary and secondary. Primary Infertility means the couple has never conceived or has been unable to conceive over months and years together. Secondary Infertility means that the couple has experienced a pregnancy or has been pregnant before and failed to conceive later or for the second time.

Now let’s discuss the causes of Male Infertility and what could be the possible symptoms of the same-

What causes infertility in men?

While detecting female infertility can be easy, male infertility could be equivalent to finding a needle in the haystack. Moreover, as a society, we are more focused on a woman’s fertility without realising that a man could be responsible too.

Most Indian households aren’t ready to agree or understand that there could be something wrong with their son (because of Raja Beta syndrome). Thus, pushing/forcing a woman to check with a doctor.

Abnormal sperm function or production – This can happen due to genetic defects or sexually transmitted diseases like Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV. Or even due to mumps, Varicocele (enlarged veins in the testes), undescended testicles. Each of these can affect the quality of sperms, time and again.

Issues with the delivery of a sperm – Sexual issues like premature ejaculation, genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis. Damage or injury to the reproductive organs and structural abnormalities, main blockage in the testicle are also cause of the same.

Continuous exposure to environmental factors – Smoking, alcohol, drugs, anabolic steroids, medications for bacterial infections, depression, and high blood pressure can affect fertility. Exposure to pesticides, certain chemicals and radiations, and prolonged heat exposure (saunas/hot tubs) may raise body temperature and affect sperm production.

Damage caused due to cancer and its treatment – Radiation and chemotherapy treatment for cancer can severely affect sperm production on the whole.

Symptoms and diagnosis of male infertility

The most common symptom of male infertility would be not being able to conceive. These symptoms may or may not be visible, some of them are hormonal issues, changes in hair growth and loss of sexual function.

There are some tests and ways to diagnose male infertility. Here are the tests used to determine male infertility hormone testing, semen analysis, genetic testing, imaging (MRI/Ultrasound), testicular biopsy. There are certain tests that can be done to diagnose male infertility.

These include hormone testing, semen analysis, genetic testing, imaging (MRI or Ultrasound), testicular biopsies. There are some other generalised tests including DNA testing of semen to determine infertility in men

What causes infertility in women?

Ovulation disorders or issues – This happens due to disorders that affect the release of an egg. PCOS, Hyperprolactinemia (increased prolactin levels), Hyperthyroidism, Hypothyroidism, tumours. In fact, eating disorders may also lead to issues with ovulation.

Damage or blockage in fallopian tubes – Inflammation caused to the fallopian tubes due to Pelvic Inflammatory disorder. This may be caused by a sexually transmitted infection, endometriosis, or adhesions.

Uterine or cervical abnormalities – Conditions such as polyps, Uterine Fibroids, may lead to the blocking of the fallopian tubes. Moreover, abnormalities in the cervix or abnormal shape of the uterus may lead to infertility too.

Pelvic Adhesions – This is caused by disorders or conditions such as endometriosis, pelvic infection, and appendicitis, abdominal or pelvic surgery. A band of scar tissues is formed which bind organs and may cause infertility.

Endometriosis (Pseudo-lining) – A pseudo endometrial lining formed outside the uterus which may affect the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes.

Cancer and its treatments – Radiation and chemotherapy can lead to infertility.

Ovarian insufficiency – This is when menstruation ends early (early menopause) and may be caused by genetic disorders such as Turner Syndrome or Carriers of Fragile X syndrome.

What are the symptoms and ways to diagnose female infertility?

While there aren’t any obvious symptoms seen, there’s one symptom that may be observed – the irregularity or absence of periods

Here are some tests that can be done to determine infertility in women –

  • Ovarian Reserve Testing –  to determine the quality of eggs
  • Ovulation Testing – blood tests to check hormone levels
  • Hysterosalpingography – an Xray used to evaluate the condition of the uterus and fallopian tubes
  • Imaging tests (Ultrasound or sonohysterogram) – this is done to check for ovarian or uterine disease.
  • Hormone Testing – this is done to check the levels of pituitary and ovulatory hormones.

The risk factors leading to male and female infertility

  • Age (women in their mid 30’s and men in their 40s)
  • Being Overweight and Obese
  • Being underweight
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use or smoking
  • Lack of Physical Activity or exercise
  • Stress

Let me bust some myths about infertility!

  • Myth – Infertility happens in women only.
    Fact – Infertility can happen in both men and women, equally and about 20% of infertility can be caused by both, men and women.
  • Myth – The Menstrual cycle is only 28 days.
    Fact – A healthy menstrual cycle can be anywhere between 21 and 35 days.
  • Myth – A sperm is alive for several hours only.
    Fact – A sperm can survive up to 5 days in fertile cervical fluid.
  • Myth – A man with a high sex drive or testosterone levels has a normal sperm count.
    Fact – There’s absolutely no correlation between fertility and virility for men and some men with normal sex drive may not have sperms at all.
  • Myth – Having intercourse daily can increase the chances of conception.
    Fact – It is imperative to have intercourse during ovulation or fertile days to increase the chances of conception, say 12-16 days of the cycle because the sperm can live for up to 2 days on average.
  • Myth – Infertility begins at the age of 35 in women.
    Fact – In woman fertility begins to decline with age, as her fertility is at its peak during the 20s. Some women may stay fertile even in their 30’s while others may face fertility issues in their 20s as well. Hence, it may vary from woman to woman.
  • Myth – Single embryo transfer can reduce the chances of pregnancy.
    Fact – A healthy and well-formed embryo would still lead to pregnancy. Moreover, women have a limited number of eggs, and once the eggs are over menopause kicks in.

You can try and prevent infertility

Though the structure of the treatment after the diagnosis of infertility might differ from person to person, there are thing you can do to prevent it. Here are some things you may want to follow to prevent infertility –

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle
  • Quit smoking, alcohol, and tobacco
  • Reduce or minimize the exposure to environmental toxins
  • Women must consume an optimal fertility diet.
  • Reduce the consumption of caffeine
  • Get yourself checked for STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases)
  • Keep your weight in check, being overweight or obese may lead to issues.
  • Men must avoid hot tubs and hot baths
  • Limit or avoid the intake of medications that impact fertility.
  • Make exercise an integral part of your lifestyle.

Things you must NEVER say to women who may be infertile

  • Ye humein ek baccha nahi desakti! (She couldn’t even give us one child!)
  • Mere bete me to koi khot nahi hai tujh me hi hogi. (There’s nothing wrong with my son, you are the one who has some issues)
  • Humari bahu me kuch kami hai. (There’s something wrong with our DIL)
  • Bahu humari banjh hai. (Our DIL is barren!)
  • Pata nahi kis janam me paap kiya tha to aisi bahu mili humein jisse baccha nahi horaha. (What sins have we committed in our past lives for us to get such a DIL)
  • Main apne bete ki dusri shadi karwa dungi kyunki tujhse to baccha nahi horaha (I will get my son married to someone else since you can’t even give him a child)

Remember, a woman is much more than just a womb on offer to carry babies!

In most cases, infertility is treatable, thanks to the advancement in science today. However, there is no reason a woman must be made to feel less if she cannot conceive or have a child of her own. It is time we changed our mindsets and spread awareness about infertility!

Picture credits: PregaNews’ new ad on YouTube

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About the Author

Huda Shaikh

A Nutritionist, Clinical Dietitian, Speaker, health/fitness blogger, online show host, menu planner, menstrual health, and holistic health advocate who runs a nutrition website named NutriBond and a movement named the Period movement. She loves read more...

37 Posts | 136,576 Views

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