Male & Female Fertility
Female possible causes and diseases
Whilst every woman’s cycle is individual and unique to her, there can be dysfunctions of the menstrual cycle which will have an impact upon fertility;
Regulating the cycle Maintaining the rhythm of the cycle can be a delicate balance, stress can have an enormous impact not only upon how we feel and perform but also upon how we function as a woman. Hormones play an important part in our health and well-being. If a woman is feeling stressed and under pressure the physiological response is elevated ‘stress hormones’ which are produced in the adrenal glands, among these hormones are adrenaline and oestrogen, stress can therefore be one of the major factors in a disrupted cycle.
Progesterone Deficiency The Luteal Phase of a woman’s cycle relies upon good levels of Progesterone, if there is a deficiency the Luteal Phase is normally shorter than 10 days resulting in cyclical headaches, PMS, intermittent bleeding, weight gain, and painful and lumpy breasts.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome PCOS is a fairly common disorder diagnosed by multiple poorly developed follicular cysts; symptoms include infrequent bleeds, weight gain and difficulties with conception due to sporadic ovulation.
Endometriosis Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrium grows outside of the uterine cavity causing bleeding into the abdominal cavity that cannot be discharged; symptoms include heavy, irregular and painful bleeding, fatigue, painful sex and bowel movements.
Andometriousis/Adenomyosis Adenomyosis is distinguished from endometriosis by the fact that it the endometrium actually grows within the muscular layer of the endometrium which causes an enlarged uterus and heavy bleeding.
Fibroids Fibroids are benign growths that develop in the uterus and can vary in size from pea-sized to that of a melon, they appear to be affected by oestrogen levels and produce symptoms of heavy bleeding, painful periods, pressure on bladder and bowel and painful sex.
Ovarian Cysts Ovarian Cysts are a fluid filled sac that develops within an ovary causing pain and irregular bleeding.
Male – Possible causes and diseases
Male infertility can many causes ranging from hormonal imbalances to physical issues, however it must be said that men who live a healthy lifestyle are more likely to produce healthy sperm; the following are just a few of the lifestyle choices that negatively impact upon male fertility:
- Smoking can significantly decrease both sperm count and sperm cell motility
- Chronic alcohol abuse
- Anabolic steroid use which causes testicular shrinkage and infertility
- Overly intense exercise which produces high levels of adrenal steroid hormones which cause a testosterone deficiency resulting in infertility
- Inadequate vitamin C and Zinc in the diet
- Tight underwear which increases scrotal temperature resulting in decreased sperm production
- Excessive stress
Hyperprolactinaemia – Elevated prolactin, this is a hormone that is normally associated with nursing mothers but can be found in 10-40 percent of infertile males. If levels are elevated it can reduce sperm production, reduce libido and may even cause impotence.
Hypothyroidism – Low thyroid levels can cause poor semen quality, poor testicular function and may disturb libido.
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia – This occurs when the pituitary gland is suppressed by increased levels of adrenal androgens; symptoms include low sperm count, an increased number of immature sperm cells and low sperm cell motility.
Hypogonadotropic Hypopituitarism – This condition arrests sperm development and causes the progressive loss of germ cells from the testes causing the seminiferous tubules and Leydig (testosterone producing) cells to deteriorate.
Panhypopituitarism – Complete pituitary gland failure – lowers growth hormone, thyroid-stimulating hormone and LH and FSH levels; symptoms include lethargy, impotence, decreased libido, loss of secondary sex characteristics and normal or undersized testicles.
Mumps only cause a problem in men if they go on to develop Orchitis (inflammation of the testicles) as this can damage sperm production it may only be temporary but can have long term implications; inflammation and heat in the testicles will not be helpful to sperm morphology as well as volume.
Testosterone levels naturally decline with age and for many older men this can be an issue; symptoms include loss of libido, poor erections and fatigue.
A varicocele is a varicose vein affecting the testicle usually with few symptoms, just some prominent veins visible in the testes which can also be felt. It has the effect of increasing temperature in the testicle which is clearly not good for sperm production.
This unfortunately can be tricky to treat as the entire male reproductive area will be in trauma post-surgery, therefore it can take up to a year post-reversal for sperm production to return to normal.
A hydrocele is a collection of fluid in the scrotum surrounding the testicles and will have an impact upon fertility by increasing heat into this area.
Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland usually due to bacterial infection, it can be acute (sudden onset) or chronic (slow onset and more persistent). Either episode will have an impact upon production of sperm as the prostrate plays a role on the sperm development