Back To CoursePathophysiology Textbook
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The inability to produce offspring, infertility, is a devastating problem for couples that want to have kids. As the song goes, 'It takes two,' and if one half of the equation or both partners are having trouble, then it'll either be very difficult or impossible to have a child. Luckily, modern science has taken a primary role in helping people fulfill their dreams of having a family. That's why we'll go over the ways both men and women can benefit from such technological advancements as we take a look at treatment options for infertility.
There are many reasons why a man may be infertile, ranging from genetic diseases to the need to remove both testicles later in life for medical reasons. One way that infertility can be treated is through the use of hormone replacement therapy; in our lesson's case, it's the use of hormones to stimulate fertility. Hormones are little compounds in your body that are responsible for a lot of things. Don't think they're just for fertility.
Anyways, the hormones necessary to ensure proper male fertility come from the brain. They then travel to the testicles and stimulate them to make the sperm that will fertilize a woman's egg. Sometimes, like depleted engine oil in a car, they need to be replaced so everything runs smoothly. But in other cases of male infertility, the levels of the necessary hormones are just fine. It may be a physical problem that's causing the infertility. In this case, we may need to turn to surgery.
One physical problem that can cause infertility in men is a varicocele, which refers to abnormally large veins inside of the scrotum. They're like varicose veins, but in the place where a man's testicles are located, the scrotum. Essentially, the enlarged veins, filled with lots of warm blood, are like global warming to the testicles. Crops fail when it's too hot and sperm production and quality fails when it's too hot as well. Surgery corrects this all by causing global cooling in the area, if you will, back down to a normal temperature.
Psychological issues can contribute to infertility, but sometimes we have to address the physiological components of issues that also have psychological issues - in our case, erectile dysfunction, a.k.a. impotence in men. Drugs like Viagra (sildenafil) help men increase penile blood flow so they can resume normal sexual activity and thus have children. Viagra forces a man's penis to engorge with blood, like a sponge engorges and expands with water.
Women aren't immune from infertility issues and thankfully have treatment options available, some of which are similar to those in men. In women, we can use a fertility drug, such as clomiphene, in order to improve ovulation - that is to say, the chances that an egg will come out of an ovary. This, of course, means that a man's sperm will actually have something to fertilize to make a baby!
But the flipside is there may be more than one egg to fertilize once this treatment is started so the chances of having more than one child are increased. That's something important to note when setting aside money for your sextuplets' college fund. I think the cost will be $1,000,000 per semester, per kid in 18 years' time, if I heard correctly. I kid. Furthermore, just like guys may need surgery, women may also need surgery to remove growths or fix other abnormalities that are contributing to infertility.
Okay, now to the cool part. There's something called assisted reproductive technology (ART). The most common assisted reproductive technology technique is the very famous in vitro fertilization. The term 'in vitro' implies we are doing something in a test tube or lab dish first, not in a person. Thus, in this case, we're performing the process of fertilization itself completely outside of any natural body.
In this method, we first take a man's sperm and a woman's eggs. We place them in a lab dish where the sperm will hopefully fertilize an egg on their own. If this doesn't happen, a needle can be used to inject a single sperm into the egg manually to produce an embryo. The doctor then implants the embryo into a woman's uterus (the womb) in a procedure called an embryo transfer for hopefully further development into an actual baby.
Women with abnormalities in the reproductive organs or men with an inappropriate sperm count or weak sperm can also benefit from intrauterine insemination, another kind of ART. This is where we help the process of fertilization along by inserting sperm directly into a woman's uterus to increase the chances of fertilization. I mean, if we get the sperm to bypass a huge portion of their journey to the egg, then they're much more likely to fertilize the egg! This technique is like taking a weak runner and placing him right near the end of the race to help him finish and win it. It's cheating, but who said it won't help win the race?
Be it a condition affecting a man or a woman, the inability to produce offspring, infertility, clearly impedes a couple's desires to have children. In such cases, men and women can benefit from hormone replacement therapy, the use of hormones to stimulate fertility, as well as drugs and surgery. For example, in the case of surgery, a varicocele, which refers to abnormally large veins inside of the scrotum, can be corrected to help restore healthy sperm.
Women can use drugs to help produce more and healthier eggs for sperm to fertilize. And both men and women are directly involved in assisted reproductive technology (ART). The most common assisted reproductive technology technique is in vitro fertilization. This is where a man's sperm and a woman's eggs are fertilized in a lab and the resulting embryo is implanted in a woman's uterus. Intrauterine insemination, another form of assisted reproductive technology, takes a man's sperm and places it into a woman's uterus to increase the chances of fertilization inside the woman.
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Back To CoursePathophysiology Textbook
20 chapters | 274 lessons