Infertility: A complex disease

Following the release of a recent study identifying a link between fertility drugs and childhood leukemia, a discussion on the origin of infertility has arisen. Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after 1 year of trying or 6 months if the woman is over 35.

The term “infertility” may sound straightforward, but the diagnosis is actually quite complex.  For both males and females, there is no single cause or treatment. For couples, males and females seem to have an equal contribution to infertility, though the mechanisms are different.

Male infertility is typically characterized by problems with sperm, such as a low sperm count or inactive or deformed sperm cells. Female infertility is often the result of blocked fallopian tubes or uterine problems.

For both males and females, a number of risk factors are linked to infertility.  These include:

  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use or drug use
  • STDs
  • High or low weight
  • Stress

All of these factors can affect normal hormone balance, which is commonly implicated in infertility.

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