Our Society Needs to Change Its Mindset about Infertility Being a Woman-Centric Issue

Vinesh Gadhia, COO, Nova IVI FertilityVinesh has over two decades of experience in the pharmaceutical and IVF business. He provides leadership to operations, doctor empanelment and business development functions. He is credited with building the doctor empanelment and business development functions at Nova IVI Fertility.

Over the years, there have been several misconceptions about infertility with various stigmas attached to it. In our society, infertility, strongly impacts an individual emotionally, rather than physically. While the term `infertility' still continues to be perceived as a taboo, one of the common myths that has been driving our society's mindset is that infertility implies an issue with the woman, which thus acts as a barrier for the couple to conceive. However, in reality, infertility or the natural ability to conceive in a couple can happen due to both male and female factors. It is not gender-specific.

Millions of people - more than one out of nine couples - experience fertility problems. And it's not just a `woman's problem' or an issue with age. There are several factors that can lead to infertility, and it can affect people of all sexes and ages. When a couple has a hard time getting pregnant, either person (or both people) can equally be the cause. That's why both the parties are usually tested for infertility, if a couple is having trouble getting pregnant.

Infertility is considered to be one of the most common, yet high disease burden in India, with about 27.5 million couples being infertile (according to a report published by EY in 2015) - while the female factor accounts for about 40-50 percent, the male factor has a considerable proportion to contribute, ranging about 30-40 percent, which is something most of us fail to accept. This misconception has been prevailing since long, where the woman is blamed and looked-down upon by the society, while the concept of male infertility has gone unnoticed.

While conditions such as PCOS and problems with the uterus may be the cause for infertility in women, poor sperm quality or supplemental
testosterone is what leads to male infertility. Today, infertility has grown to become a common issue, primarily due to the current lifestyle changes in terms of eating, stressful jobs, late marriages and many other reasons.

There are several causes for infertility. Consulting a doctor who specializes in infertility can help an individual or a couple figure-out what's causing them fertility problems and find the best treatment option

Understanding Male Infertility
Male infertility is a condition which prevents a couple from conceiving a child. However, unlike females, male infertility is identified by the inability to conceive a child, which is often realised at a much later stage, once the woman is diagnosed using a number of tests and social stereotypes.

There are very few symptoms, by which one can identify the condition:
• Pain, swelling or a lump in the testicle area
• Lower sperm count & motility
• Decreasing body or facial hair/abnormal hormone functions
• Problems with sexual function - difficulty in ejaculation, erectile dysfunction

While the symptoms are generally rare to identify, here are some definite causes which lead to this condition:
• Untreated chlamydia or gonorrhoea
• Low sperm count (not having enough sperm in your semen)
• Poor sperm motility (when sperm doesn't swim well enough to reach an egg)
• Sperm that aren't formed correctly
• No sperm in your semen

Over exposure to certain environmental factors such as heat, toxins, and chemicals has also proven to negatively affect the production of sperm in men. Industrial chemicals, heavy metals like lead, overheating of testicles by sitting for long hours, or working on a laptop computer for long stretches of time impair the production and functioning of sperms. Other factors that lead to poor quality of sperms are the illicit use of drugs like anabolic steroids taken to stimulate muscle strength and growth, the use of cocaine or marijuana, and excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco smoking.

Stress and obesity also reduce fertility in men. With poor quality sperm being one of the major causes of male infertility, modern technology allows fertility specialists to choose the best and the healthiest sperm for the process of ICSI, thereby increasing the chances of pregnancy. MACS (Magnetic Activated Cell Sorting) is one such advanced ART technique that aids the success rates of IVF/ICSI. There are several causes for infertility. Consulting a doctor who specializes in infertility can help an individual or a couple figure-out what's causing them fertility problems and find the best treatment option. Sometimes, there is no known reason for infertility - this is called unexplained infertility. Unexplained infertility can be really frustrating, but there are still treatment options that can cure infertility.

If a couple is struggling to achieve pregnancy after a year of trying, it is a good idea to meet with a fertility specialist. Evaluating both the male and female at the same time can rule-out or diagnose many potential causes leading to infertility. Physical evaluations, laboratory testing and more can be performed to give you a better idea of your next best course of action.