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Infertility: Causes and Potential Options Video

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  • 0:01 Defining Infertility
  • 0:17 Reasons for…
  • 2:47 Reasons for Infertility in Men
  • 5:24 Treatment Options for…
  • 6:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Trouble having a baby may be a result of a woman or man's reproductive problems. This lesson discusses some common and important ones as well as the general treatment strategies employed to combat them.

Defining Infertility

There is a long list of reasons why males and females may be infertile. Infertility is the inability to produce offspring, and this lesson will explore both the reasons it occurs and possible solutions.

Reasons for Infertility in Women

Women have two structures inside of their body called ovaries, the structures that produce an egg that is then fertilized by a man's sperm to make a baby!

Ovulation disorders are one cause of infertility in women. Reasons for this include:

  • Infection - think about when you were infected with something like the flu. You didn't have too much in you to get things done, and the ovaries are equally less likely to make healthy eggs when they're infected.
  • Trauma is another reason. A punch in the gut would probably incapacitate you, and trauma to the ovaries, from things like surgery, can also scar them to the point of dysfunction.
  • We also need to consider tumors, including malignant tumors - that is to say cancer.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome, the most common cause of female infertility, which results from hormonal imbalances in the body.
  • Hyperprolactinemia, resulting from too much of a hormone called prolactin, which is the same hormone that stimulates breast milk production. The prefix 'hyper-' implies an abnormal increase in something.
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency, a condition where the ovaries intermittently, if ever, release any eggs. This problem begins before the age of 40 and may be caused by genetic disorders, toxins, autoimmune diseases, and unknown causes. Primary ovarian insufficiency is commonly, although misleadingly, called early or premature menopause.

However, the ovaries need not be involved in women's infertility. Other structures can be to blame, including the fallopian tubes, the things that connect the ovaries to the uterus.

If the fallopian tubes are inflamed, like in a condition known as pelvic inflammatory disease, then this can result in trouble having kids. Such a problem may stem from chlamydia and gonorrhea, which are two sexually transmitted infections caused by bacteria. That's why practicing safe sex is so important!

Endometriosis is a further cause of infertility in females. Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue lining the inside of the uterus (also known as the womb), called the endometrium, grows outside the uterus.

Less common, but still possible, are things directly affecting the uterus. For example, growths, like polyps and fibroids, can lead to the inability to have children as well.

Reasons for Infertility in Men

But enough about the ladies! Let's segue to the guys at this point.

The testes, or testicles, are two structures in men that produce sperm. They are analogous to the woman's ovaries and produce the many little troopers that fight their way to reach that one golden egg.

But like a comedy about soldiers, these little guys aren't always the brightest or strongest. So, one reason for infertility in men is the sperm themselves. If they are oddly shaped (known as odd morphology), don't move very well (known as poor motility), or aren't numerous enough, then guys can have problems having kids.

The sperm may be sort of weird like this because of problems affecting the testicles themselves, like cryptorchidism, a situation where one or both testicles have not descended into the scrotum. Genetic defects, hormonal imbalances, infections, and metabolic conditions, like diabetes, can also lead to similar issues.

Actually, sperm production and quality can also be influenced by something you've likely heard about: temperature. The elevation of a person's core body temperature, or that around the testicles, has been linked to infertility in men, as in a condition known as a varicocele, where enlarged veins are present in the scrotum. There's a reason Mother Nature had testicles hanging outside the body. It's so they could catch a nice breeze and cool down. Seriously! Cooler temperatures help the testicles produce more and higher-quality sperm.

But even if you're a boxer-wearing kind of chap and the sperm that's being made is so healthy that King Henry VIII would be spinning in his grave, that's not all that can cause men trouble.

There's something called retrograde ejaculation. This is when ejaculate goes into the bladder instead of out through the penis. This happens because the bladder sphincter, the thing that's supposed to prevent things leaking out of and into the bladder, doesn't close properly.

Also, let's not forget about the thing we hear about on every other commercial on TV: erectile dysfunction (ED), aka impotence. While we used to think that this was purely a psychological problem in guys, we know it can occur from many different factors, like increased blood pressure, anxiety, heart disease, stress, diabetes, and so forth.

As famous as ED is premature ejaculation - an inability to control ejaculation for at least 30 seconds after sexual penetration, which leads to lowered chances of fertilization.

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