What is infertility?

There’s a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding infertility and a lot of the time, women tend to take on most of the blame for a couple being unable to have children. However, the truth is both men and women can struggle with fertility issues and there are many underlying problems that can cause this. Here’s more.

What is infertility?

Infertility is when a person struggles to fall or stay pregnant. A person is generally diagnosed with infertility if they have been trying to fall pregnant for a year or more, with no success or if they have had multiple miscarriages over a period of time. In men, infertility can be caused by anything from low sperm count, to untreated STIs.

What are the symptoms of infertility?

A lot of people notice that that they may be infertile when they struggle to have children (to get pregnant or impregnate). However, there are other early symptoms of infertility that you can look out for as a woman or a man.

Early symptoms in women may include pain during sex (which can be an indication of endometriosis or fibroids), extremely heavy and painful periods, or an irregular menstrual cycle.

For men, some early symptoms may be erectile dysfunction (inability to get keep firm erection during intercourse), problems with ejaculation (finding it difficult to ejaculate), sudden changes in testicles (when they shrink in size and feel tight).

It’s important to note that while these can indicate infertility, they may also be symptoms of other issues, so it’s important to see a healthcare practitioner if you experience any one of these.

What causes infertility?

There are a lot of factors that contribute to infertility in both males and females. That’s why it’s important to prioritise your sexual reproductive health by going for regular check-ups, even before you decide that you are ready to have children.

In women, infertility can be caused by having an untreated STI such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea, not ovulating or having blockages or irregularities with your uterus or fallopian tubes. Other medical issues such as fibroids and endometriosis can also lead to infertility. Untreated STIs, low sperm count and other irregularities with the sperm can be responsible for infertility in men.

Things like smoking, being over or underweight, abusing substances and being over the age of 35 (for women) can also be risk factors for infertility.

Can it be treated?

In a lot of cases, infertility can be treated by a specialist, usually a gynaecologist (for women) or urologist (for men). You can see a specialist at any government hospital, as long as you’ve been referred by a nurse or doctor.

The emotional effects

The emotional effects of suspected or confirmed infertility can be really difficult to cope with, especially if there’s family involved. It’s important to know that whatever the circumstances are, this is a medical condition and it’s not your fault, nor is it your partner’s fault. It might also be a good idea to get counselling to help both of you deal with this issue. Organisations like FAMSA are there to support you through situations like this one.

Infertility is a serious issue that needs to be treated with sensitivity. That’s why it’s something we should be informed about and not use as an insult or attack on someone. It’s also important to be careful when asking people who don’t have children questions about this to avoid making assumptions or offending them.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).