World Infertility Awareness Month takes place in June each year, aiming to highlight some of the infertility issues faced by roughly 1 in 6 people across the world. Currently in the UK, infertility is usually only diagnosed after a year of trying to conceive without success. This can be a frustrating and difficult time for couples, as they are often left without access to any form of testing or treatment until after this time has passed. At newfoundland, we allow people to take control of their own health, thereby leading to earlier detection and treatment plans.
What causes infertility?
Many factors related to health, environment and lifestyle can affect an individual’s fertility.
- Age: fertility reduces naturally with age (particularly after the age of 45 for men and 35 for women)
- Cigarettes, alcohol, recreational drugs: drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes and marijuana can all reduce fertility and decrease semen quality.
- Weight: being overweight reduces infertility in both men and women. Being severely underweight can also affect a woman’s ovulation.
- STIs: STIs (e.g. chlamydia and gonorrhoea) can cause infertility in some cases, particularly if left untreated.
- Cancer treatment: undergoing treatment for cancer, including radiation or chemotherapy can impair the normal function of the ovaries and sperm production.
In addition to the above, the following factors can affect a man’s fertility:
- Poor sperm quality: this could be a low sperm count (i.e. not producing enough or any sperm) or sperm with low motility (i.e. sperm that don’t swim properly, making it harder to reach the egg).
- Testicular damage: Infection or injury to testicles can affect the quality of a man’s semen.
- Prostate issues: the prostate plays a crucial role in fertility for men. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer for men in the UK. The ProstateCancerUK website has more information on fertility treatment and options.
- Low testosterone: Individuals with low levels of testosterone may not produce enough sperm.
- Environmental factors: certain pesticides and other chemicals can contribute to infertility. High blood pressure and depression can also affect fertility. Frequent exposure to heat, such as in saunas or hot tubs, can raise body temperature and may affect sperm production.
And the following can impact fertility in women:
- Ovulation disorders: these include hormonal disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome and can affect the release of eggs from the ovaries.
- Thyroid issues: either too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) can affect the menstrual cycle or cause infertility.
- Uterine or cervical abnormalities: this includes abnormalities with the cervix, overly thick cervical mucus, polyps in the uterus or the shape of the uterus.
- Fallopian tube damage or blockage: this can prevent the egg from reaching the uterus.
- Endometriosis: this condition can affect the function of the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes.
- Early menopause: when the ovaries stop working and menstruation ends before the age of 40, this is regarded as early menopause.
Infertility: fact or fiction?
- Infertility usually affects women more than men.
MYTH. Among couples struggling to conceive, approximately 30% of the issues are attributable to the male, 30% to the female and 40% are a combination of the two.
- The pill does not cause infertility.
FACT. Although it can take some time for a woman’s menstrual cycle to return to normal after coming off the pill, it has absolutely no effect on long term fertility - just like all reversible contraceptive methods.
- Stress causes infertility.
MYTH. While elevated levels of stress can put a strain on a couple’s relationship and sex life and can also lead to irregular menstrual cycles, there is no evidence to suggest it has any physical effect on fertility.
- Male fertility also reduces with age.
FACT. Although a man can still father a child at any age, the quality of sperm decreases from about 40-45 years of age.
- Infertility is very unlikely if you’ve already had a child.
MYTH. Up to a third of infertility cases occur after a couple has had at least one child. This is known as secondary infertility.
How can you check your fertility?
If you are worried about your fertility, newfoundland allows you to easily test in the comfort and privacy of your own home. To find out how easy it is to check your own fertility and to discover more, you can read what Women’s Health and the Daily Express have had to say about our tests.
If you and your partner are struggling to conceive naturally, then there are other treatment options available, such as IVF. Speak to your GP to discuss further and find out all of the options open to you. There are also some great charities such as FertilityNetworkUK which can offer help and support to anyone struggling with infertility issues.