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THE AGONY OF INFERTILITY

14-May-2014.By: Sylvester Iriogbe and Punch

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Children they say are the blessings of marriage. In some societies of the world, it is even believed that children are symbols of God's approval and blessings on marriages. Under normal circumstance, it is the choice of each individual and couple, within their own sense of conscience, to determine if they intend pregnancy and if so, the size of their family unit and the timing of when to have a child or children.  But in many African cultures, married couples who are unable to bear children shortly a few years after their marriage are faced with all forms of unfriendly pressure from the family and social groups which could lead to unnecessary frustration, resentment and depression.

Apart from the rare cases when couples deliberately decide not to have children, inability to bear children has been the cause of many failed marriages and even destroyed many homes. It affects the self-esteem of a man, dampens his sense of control and also throws a woman into total confusion, frustration and anxiety. It is therefore an issue that should not be taken lightly anymore by both the man and the woman. Many women believe that without children, lives are without hope.

There are both Male and Female factor in infertility around the world and this problem is getting more prevalent by the day. A WHO report reveals a shocking one in every four couples in developing countries found to be affected by infertility.

Infertility affects up to 15% of reproductive-aged couples worldwide. WHO demographic studies from 2004 have shown that in sub-Saharan Africa more than 30% of women aged 25–49 suffer from secondary infertility, the failure to conceive after an initial first pregnancy. Although male infertility has also been found to be the cause of a couple’s failure to conceive in about 50% of cases, the social burden falls excessively on women.

Infertility in women is being considered in any of these situations; when a woman is unable to become pregnant, when a woman cannot maintain a pregnancy or when a woman in unable to carry a pregnancy to a live birth.

Among men, sperm disorders account for most common cause of male infertility and are often symptomatic of other diseases or disorders. Low semen volume or absence of semen, termed Aspermia, has been identified as some of the causes of infertility in men.

Another cause of male infertility is low sperm count. Normal sperm count is defined by the World Health Organisation as having over 20 million sperm per mL. A count of under 20 million/mL is termed oligospermia, while the absence of sperm altogether is termed Azoospermia.

Sperm motility is another crucial factor that will determine whether or not a couple would be able to achieve pregnancy. It refers to the forward motion capacity of the sperm. The shape of the sperm, technically referred to as sperm morphology is another crucial factor in male fertility. Seventy per cent normally-shaped sperm indicates good morphology; and abnormally shaped sperm appear with malformed heads, (including two heads, tiny heads, round heads) and tails (two tails, short tails). These shapes tend to affect their motility.

Again, weight is an issue in male infertility. Fertility doctors say increased body mass may be associated with decreased male fertility, as obesity creates relatively high levels of the female-associated hormone oestrogen.

Indeed, statistics say about 12 per cent of the total couple population – or more than seven million couples – accounts for the number of couples having difficulties with getting pregnant. Generally, the inability to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse and the inability to carry a pregnancy into its full term characterise infertility.

Experts say while 75 percent of infertility cases are caused by biological makeup such as sperm count problems, ovulation problems and fallopian tube abnormalities, about 25 per cent of the cases are due to complications caused by sexually transmitted diseases resulting from unprotected sex with multiple partners. Ten per cent of the cases are caused by Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.

The age of a woman has also been reported to be a mitigating factor of infertility. A woman is most fertile at the age of 20 to 32. After 40s, a woman’s chance to conceive is significantly reduced by 37 per cent, and at the age of 45, a woman’s fertility dips to a low of 15 per cent.

They also say that other factors contributing to infertility only make up about 20 per cent of the total infertility cases. These external factors are often environment acquired and include the use of toxic substances.

Men who are diagnosed with infertility are often due to lifestyle practices, and only about 10 percent of male infertility is caused by biological make up, such as hormonal imbalance resulting in less production of testosterone, consequence of a childhood disease like mumps, and inherent low sperm count.

Stress also plays a significant role in a person’s fertility. For both men and women, this 20 per cent “external factor” is considered to be the pivotal key affecting a couple’s chance to conceive.

Again, lifestyle and personal habits like excess alcohol intake, cigarette smoking and intake of medical drugs also play a big role in fertility. These components are significant factors affecting sperm count, sperm motility and sperm shape.

Experts warn that the earlier infertility is diagnosed and treated, the better the chances of conception.

While there are numerous options and procedures to help couples overcome infertility and help them build a family of their own, fertility experts confess that most available procedures are expensive and therefore beyond the reach of most couples. Worse still is the fact that the success rate of some of the procedures is still less than 45 per cent.

To help couples with fertility challenge, therefore, Nigerian healthcare giant, Fidson Healthcare Plc, in collaboration with international fertility experts, has made available in the country two separate herbo-mineral supplements for the treatment of male and female infertility respectively. They are M2-Tone tablets and syrup for women, and Addyzoa capsules for men.


Last Updated: 30-Jun-2016 07:39 PM

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