Mon | Oct 15, 2018

Infertility - there is still hope

Published:Wednesday | January 20, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Infertility is something that affects a couple. However, I have noticed that many women come to my office complaining of being infertile... and they show up alone. It is a very sensitive issue for both genders, but women, for years, have borne the brunt of the blame for this problem.

So, before you go adding undue stress to yourselves, here is a little information that may help relieve some of your anxiety and focus you in the right direction.

Firstly, infertility is defined as a failure to conceive (get pregnant) after one year of REGULAR unprotected intercourse. For women 35 years and older, the one year is reduced to six months.

Infertility doesn't always mean a person is sterile - unable ever to have a child. Up to 15 per cent of all couples are infertile, but only one to two per cent are sterile. Half of couples who seek help can eventually have a child, either on their own or with medical help.

So what are the causes of infertility?

For simplicity, I always tell my patients in order to get pregnant, what is needed is an egg, a sperm, and a place for them to meet. Anything that interferes with any one of these three things will result in infertility.




In men, the most common reasons are problems with their sperm. These include:

- A low sperm count, which is too few or even no sperm in the semen.

- Low sperm motility, meaning the sperm don't move as well as they should.

- Abnormally formed sperm.

- Blocked sperm ducts. The tubes that transport the sperm are blocked.

In women, where there is more internal anatomy, there are a lot more things that can cause infertility.

One of the main reasons for infertility in women is not ovulating, meaning she is not releasing eggs from the ovaries. This is commonly seen in patients with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

Another common cause of female infertility is problems with the fallopian tubes. These are the tubes that carry the eggs from the ovary to the uterus, and is also the meeting place for egg and sperm in the fertility process. Damage to them are a common cause of female infertility. Sometimes, these tubes become blocked by scarring resulting from an infection or from a condition called Endometriosis.




If an egg is released and makes its way thorough the fallopian tubes, many things can stop it from implanting in the uterus. Also, the cervical mucus can damage sperm or slow their progress in getting to the egg.

Age also plays a factor. In women, fertility drops with age, and so after the age of 35, we usually investigate the causes at an earlier stage. As stated before, we start investigating after six months of no success.

There are also lifestyle factors that affect both men and women such as smoking and elicit drug use, extremes of weight, (meaning being either too fat or too skinny), as well as other environmental factors.

- Dr Rhonda Reeves is the obstetrician/gynaecologist at Southdale Medical & Gynae Centre, Shop 6, Southdale Plaza. Email: