Infertility is the inability to naturally concieve a child, or to carry a pregnancy full term. This could be down to the male in the partnership, the female, or in some cases, both. Infertility affects approximately 10% of people of reproductive age. Roughly 40% of cases involve a male contribution or factor, 40% involve a female factor, and the remainder involve both sexes. There are several different reasons why a couple may be unable to concieve naturally, if a woman is unable to concieve it may be down to general factors - for example, significant liver disease, Ovarian Factors such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Cervical factors such as Insufficient cervical mucus, Vaginal factors such as Vaginal Obstruction or Genetic factors. If the male is however, unable to concieve it may be down to Testicular factors such as an abnormal set of chromosomes, Posttesticular causes such as an infection or even Smoking in some cases. In the cases where both the man and woman are infertile, the couple's infertility is usually because of a combination of these conditions. However, occasionally one partner may be independantly fertile but the couple are unable to concieve together naturally.
There are many different ways in which to treat Infertility. One of the most popular is In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) in which egg cells are removed from the womans body, and are then fertilized outside of the womans womb using either the womans partner or a donors sperm. The fertilised egg (zygote) is then transfered back inside the woman's uterus, bypassing the fallopian tubes. This is used if the male has a low sperm count or low sperm mobility. Children that are a result of IVF treatment are commonly refered to as, 'test tube baies,' - a reference to the test tubes used in science labs.
IVF treatment cycles are usually started on the third day of menstruation, fertility medications are used to stimulate the development of multiple follicoles in the ovaries. Usually 10 days of injections are necessary.When in the laboratory, surrounding cells are removed from the egg and the egg is prepared for fertilization. Inactive cells and seminal fluid are also removed from the males sperm in preparation for the treatment. The sperm and the egg are incubated together for about 18 hours. By this time fertilisation has usually taken place. Occasionally however, the sperm count is so low a single sperm is injected directly into the egg instead.
The major risk of IVF is the risk of multiple births. There have been many cases of women going in for fertility treatments and then giving birth to more than one child as a result. This is because of the practice of transferring multiple embryos at embryo transfer. Strict limits on the number of embryos that may be transferred have been set in some countries to reduce the risk of multiple births. Another risk of IVF is birth defects. It has been suggested that there is a 30-40% increase risk of birth defects in children born out of...