About a quarter of couples experience a period of infertility lasting more than a year, and some continue to experience difficulties for longer.
What is it?
Infertility may be primary, meaning the couple have never achieved a pregnancy, or secondary, which means they have conceived in the past but are having difficulties conceiving again.
What causes infertility?
Male infertility is usually caused by sperm disorders. Other causes of male infertility include genetic disorders, alcohol and drug misuse, testicular injury, side effects of illness, and sexually transmitted infections.
Causes of female infertility include problems with ovulation, egg transport, fertilisation and implantation, and endometriosis.
Often, however, no cause for infertility can be identified. You can minimise the chances of infertility by:
Not smoking or using recreational drugs
Drinking alcohol only within recommended amounts
Taking regular exercise
eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables - zinc, selenium, and vitamins A, C and E are important for healthy sperm production
Keeping stress to a minimum and having sex regularly
What''s the treatment?
Treatment depends on the underlying cause. For example, if ovulation is a problem then medication can be given to stimulate the ovaries. Surgery may be used to treat endometriosis or to remove fibroids from the womb. Various techniques are available to assist conception, including in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and artificial insemination.
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