Infertility is a problem for millions of couples around the world, but what causes fertility issues and what can you do to treat them? Let’s take a closer look at fertility issues and examine some effective treatments, from medical procedures to Intenza’s Herbal Ignite supplements.
What is infertility?
Infertility is the inability of a couple to conceive after 12 months of unprotected sex. Although both partners contribute equally in the creation of a child, the woman is often unfairly blamed for sterility, even though the biological cause may lie with the man. Backing this up is recent research which has highlighted that the male sperm count is dropping worldwide.
A recent study by scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and published in the Human Reproduction Update examined more than 180 studies on infertility conducted over 40 years. It concluded that, overall, total sperm counts in Western countries have dropped by 59 percent since 1971, with a corresponding 52 percent fall in sperm concentration.
Although it didn’t pinpoint which factors were specifically to blame, the fact that the decline in Western countries outpaced those elsewhere in the world suggests that hormone-disrupting chemicals and pesticides were two of the main causes. Lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking, stress and obesity are also highlighted in several other recent studies.1
Quoting the findings of the study, Professor Daniel Brison, an expert in clinical embryology at Manchester University, said the extent of the decline in sperm counts in the Western world was “shocking”, and has “major implications not just for fertility, but for male health and wider public health”.
Who is affected by infertility?
According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 15 percent of couples are infertile. Worldwide, the number of couples seeking medical help to have a family has risen. Previously, many couples just accepted they could not have children and never bothered to see a doctor. However, there does appear to be a genuine increase in infertility – especially in men.
Male infertility now accounts for around 30 percent of cases – the same as female statistics. The remaining 40 percent of cases are put down to a combination of both male and female factors, or something which cannot be identified.
Fertility expert Prof Richard Sharpe from the University of Edinburgh, says the depressed sperm count and delays starting families – with many waiting until the female partner was in her 30s – meant many couples were left facing a “double whammy” when they tried to conceive.2
7 infertility symptoms
The obvious sign of male and female infertility is the inability to conceive a child. There may be no other clear signs or symptoms.
In some cases of male infertility, however, an underlying problem such as an inherited disorder, hormonal imbalance, dilated veins around the testicles, or a condition that blocks the passage of sperm may cause signs and symptoms.
These may include:
- Problems with sexual function — for example, difficulty with ejaculation or small volumes of fluid ejaculated, reduced sexual desire or difficulty maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction).
- Pain, swelling or a lump in the testicle area.
- Recurrent respiratory infections.
- Inability to smell.
- Abnormal breast growth (gynecomastia).
- Decreased facial or body hair or other signs of a chromosomal or hormonal abnormality.
- Having a lower than normal sperm count (fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen or a total sperm count of less than 39 million per ejaculate).3
In the case of female infertility, other than the inability to fall pregnant, a menstrual cycle that's too long (35 days or more), too short (less than 21 days), irregular or absent can mean a woman isn’t ovulating. There may be no other outward signs or symptoms.
Causes of male infertility
Male infertility can be caused by several factors linked to lower sperm count, movement of sperm and quantity. These include:
- A low sperm count, or no sperm at all.
- Decreased sperm mobility, which makes it harder for sperm to reach the egg.
- Damage to a man's testicles. This could be due to a range of problems including:
- Injury to the testicles.
- Undescended testicles— when one or both testicles has not descended into the scrotum.
- Infectionsuch as mumps or gonorrhoea.
- Testicular cancer.4
- Tight underwear, identified by one study as the single biggest cause of infertility.
- Some chemicals used in painting and decorating are thought to contribute to infertility. Chemicals known as PFCs, which are found in some raincoats and non-stick pans, are also suspected.2
- Mobile phones. Keeping your phone in your trouser pocket can 'cook' your sperm, according to a study published in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine. Fertility experts suggest you keep your phone out of your pocket if you want to keep your sperm count high, as the increased temperature and electromagnetic activity could be damaging your fertility.
- Hot baths. Men should avoid 'overheating' their testicles, according to researchers at the University of California. The ideal climate for sperm production is a cool surrounding temperature, so even taking a hot bath may disrupt the temperature of the testicles and lower sperm count.
- Illicit drug use.Anabolic steroids taken to stimulate muscle strength and growth can cause the testicles to shrink and sperm production to decrease. Use of cocaine or marijuana may temporarily reduce the number and quality of sperm as well.3
Causes of female infertility
The hormones oestrogen and progesterone control a woman's monthly fertility cycle. An egg is released each month as these hormone levels change. The egg then travels into the fallopian tubes which connect the ovaries to the womb, in a process called ovulation.
In women, infertility is due to problems with ovulation in about one in three cases. Some issues prevent women from releasing any eggs; in other cases, an egg is only released on some monthly cycles.
Ovulation problems can occur as a result of many conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, thyroid problems or premature ovarian failure, which is when a woman's ovaries stop working before the age of 40. Another common cause of infertility is when small pieces of the womb lining are found outside the womb – a condition called endometriosis.
There are many other conditions which can cause a woman to have problems with fertility. It may be difficult to become pregnant, for example, if the womb or fallopian tubes are damaged.4
9 risk factors for infertility
The Mayo Clinic identifies some common risk factors for infertility for both men and women:
- Men and women are their most fertile in their early 20s. Female fertility declines sharply after the age of 35. Around one in three of couples in which the woman is over 35 have fertility problems. This rises to two-thirds when the woman is over 40. Male fertility gradually declines from the age of 40.
- Hormonal disorders.An underactive thyroid or a malfunctioning pituitary gland can cause fertility issues.
- Smoking. Studies have shown that women who smoke take longer to conceive. Research has found that the toxic chemicals in cigarettes can damage the lining of the fallopian tubes, which help transport the egg from the ovary to the womb. Partners of men who smoke also have a reduced chance of conceiving, as smoking can decrease the amount of sperm produced and their motility.
- Drinking. Alcohol can reduce fertility in both men and women. It is not yet understood exactly how alcohol affects fertility but studies have shown that drinking alcohol reduces the chances of a woman conceiving. In men, heavy drinking may affect sperm quality.
- Bad timing.An egg is fertilised when a man's sperm meets the woman's egg at about the time of ovulation, which is when the egg is released from the ovaries. Women mostly ovulate once during each cycle, and the most likely time for conception is 14 days before a period.
- Worry and tensioncan cause hormonal changes in the body, which can lead to fertility problems.
- Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) as well as fallopian tube infection in women. Both may cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes and uterus, leading to infertility. Gonorrhoea can also cause PID and reduce fertility in men as well.
- Unhealthy body weight. If you're very underweight it can be more difficult to conceive. Being obese may also cause problems with conceiving.4
- Lack of sleep.If you aren't managing seven to eight hours of sleep a night your fertility might start to suffer. A preliminary study published by Fertility and Sterility found that men who slept for less than six hours a night were 31 percent less likely to impregnate their partner than men who were able to catch seven to eight hours of shut eye.5
How is infertility diagnosed?
Most people will see a medical professional if a pregnancy doesn’t occur after 12 months of trying. A doctor can give advice and conduct some preliminary assessments, including discussing a couple’s sexual practices.
If this doesn’t help a doctor may then recommend tests and trials, which may be inconclusive. In some infertile couples, no specific cause is found. Infertility evaluation can be expensive, and sometimes involves uncomfortable procedures.
Fertility tests for men
You may have a general physical exam, including examination of your genitals. Specific fertility tests may include:
- Semen analysis.Your doctor may ask for one or more semen specimens. Semen is generally obtained by masturbating or by interrupting intercourse and ejaculating your semen into a clean container. A lab then analyses your semen specimen.
- Hormone testing.You may have a blood test to determine the level of testosterone and other male hormones.
- Genetic testing.Genetic testing may be done to determine whether there's a genetic defect causing infertility.
- Testicular biopsy.In select cases, a testicular biopsy may be performed to identify abnormalities contributing to infertility and to retrieve sperm to use with assisted reproductive techniques, such as IVF.
- Other specialty testing.In rare cases, other tests to evaluate the quality of the sperm may be performed, such as evaluating a semen specimen for DNA abnormalities.
- In certain situations, imaging studies such as a brain MRI, bone mineral density scan, transrectal or scrotal ultrasound, or a test of the vas deferens may be performed.
Fertility tests for women
Fertility for women relies on the ovaries releasing healthy eggs. Her reproductive tract must allow an egg to pass into her fallopian tubes and join with sperm for fertilisation. The fertilised egg must travel to the uterus and implant in the lining. Tests for female infertility attempt to determine whether any of these processes are impaired.
You may have a general physical exam, including a regular gynaecological exam. Specific fertility tests may include:
- Ovulation testing.A blood test measures hormone levels to determine whether you're ovulating.
- This evaluates the condition of your uterus and fallopian tubes and looks for blockages or other problems. X-ray contrast is injected into your uterus, and an X-ray is taken to determine if the cavity is normal and ensure the fluid spills out of your fallopian tubes.
- Ovarian reserve testing.This testing helps determine the quality and quantity of the eggs available for ovulation. This approach often begins with hormone testing early in the menstrual cycle.
- Other hormone testing.Other hormone tests check levels of ovulatory hormones, as well as pituitary hormones that control reproductive processes.
- Imaging tests.Pelvic ultrasound looks for uterine or fallopian tube disease. Sometimes a hysterosonography is used to see details inside the uterus that are not seen on a regular ultrasound.
Depending on your situation, and rarely, your testing may include:
- Based on your symptoms, your doctor may request a hysteroscopy to look for uterine or fallopian tube disease. During hysteroscopy, your doctor inserts a thin, lighted device through your cervix into your uterus to view any potential abnormalities.
- This minimally invasive surgery involves making a small incision beneath your navel and inserting a thin viewing device to examine your fallopian tubes, ovaries and uterus. A laparoscopy may identify endometriosis, scarring, blockages or irregularities of the fallopian tubes, and problems with the ovaries and uterus.
- Genetic testing.Genetic testing helps determine whether there's a genetic defect causing infertility.6
How is infertility treated?
According to Medical News Today, treatment depends on various factors, including the age of the person who wishes to conceive, how long the infertility has lasted, personal preferences and their general state of health.
Frequency of intercourse
A couple may be advised to have sexual intercourse more often around the time of ovulation. Sperm can survive inside the female for up to five days, while an egg can be fertilised for up to one day after ovulation. In theory, it is possible to conceive on any of these six days that occur before and during ovulation.
However, a survey has suggested that the 3 days most likely to offer a fertile window are the two days before ovulation plus the one day of ovulation.
Fertility treatments for men
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the infertility:
- Erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.Medication, behavioral approaches, or both may help improve fertility.
- Surgically removing a varicose vein in the scrotum may help.
- Blockage of the ejaculatory duct.Sperm can be extracted directly from the testicles and injected into an egg in the laboratory.
- Retrograde ejaculation.Sperm can be taken directly from the bladder and injected into an egg in the laboratory.
- Surgery for epididymal blockage.A blocked epididymis can be surgically repaired. The epididymis is a coil-like structure in the testicles which helps store and transport sperm. If the epididymis is blocked, sperm may not be ejaculated properly.7
Fertility treatments for women
Although a woman may need just one or two therapies to restore fertility, it's possible that several different types of treatment may be needed before she's able to conceive:
- Stimulating ovulation with fertility drugs.Fertility drugs are the main treatment for women who are infertile due to ovulation disorders. These medications regulate or induce ovulation. Talk with your doctor about fertility drug options — including the benefits and risks of each type.
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI).During IUI, healthy sperm are placed directly in the uterus around the time the woman's ovary releases one or more eggs to be fertilised. Depending on the reasons for infertility, the timing of IUI can be coordinated with your normal cycle or with fertility medications.
- Surgery to restore fertility.Uterine problems such as endometrial polyps, a uterine septum or intrauterine scar tissue can be treated with hysteroscopic surgery.6
6 things to do at home to support fertility
There are a variety of simple, effective ways to help improve a couple’s chances of conceiving.
- Watch your weight.A healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) has been linked to increased fertility in both men and women. This is because your weight affects your body’s hormone production. Being overweight leads to decreased sperm production in men and decreased frequency and consistency of ovulation in women. A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.
- Balance your diet.A big part of watching your weight means eating right. While no research suggests that one specific diet increases fertility, a balanced diet promotes overall health, including reproductive health. You should avoid sugar and other simple carbohydrates, as well as fatty or fried foods. Focus on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, lean meat protein (such as fish and skinless chicken), and healthy fats (such as omega-3 and omega-9 fats)
- Stay active.Another important step in maintaining a healthy weight is to get plenty of exercise. In men especially, moderate exercise can help produce enzymes that help to protect sperm. Aim to get at least thirty minutes of moderate cardio (anything that gets your heart rate up, such as jogging, cycling, swimming, etc.) five days a week. Women should stick to a moderate exercise routine as vigorous exercise reduces progesterone levels, which is an important hormone for ovulation. They should limit vigorous exercise to fewer than five hours each week.
- Avoid exposure to sexually transmitted infections (STIs).STIs, especially chlamydia and gonorrhea, can cause infertility in both men and women. Both of these STIs can occasionally present asymptomatically (without warning signs), so it’s always a good idea for you and your partner to schedule an STI screening before you stop using condoms when you plan to conceive. Both infections are bacterial, and you can treat them with a course of antibiotics from your doctor.
- Quit smoking.Use of tobacco products is another leading cause of infertility amongst both men and women. Women who smoke risk aging their ovaries and depleting their eggs prematurely. In men, smoking is associated with reduced sperm counts, decreased sperm mobility, and even misshapen sperm.
- Reduce your alcohol consumption.Experts have linked alcohol consumption to many fertility complications in both women and men. Heavy drinking can cause ovulation disorders in women, making it more difficult to pinpoint when you are most fertile. In men, heavy drinking is associated with lower levels of testosterone, which can lead to decreased sperm counts and even impotence. You should always drink in moderation and consider cutting out alcohol entirely while trying to conceive.8
4 additional things men can do at home to boost sperm count
- Eat red foods. A report published by Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic in the U.S, following analysis of 12 studies conducted by different groups around the world, found that consumption of lycopene improved the quality, mobility and volume of sperm dramatically, increasing sperm count by up to 70%. Lycopene is an essential nutrient commonly found in red fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes, strawberries, cherries and peppers.
- Lay off the laptop. A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterilitysuggested there could be a link between using a laptop with a Wi-Fi connection and a reduction in sperm quality. Sperm samples from 29 men were stored normally and under a laptop connected to WiFi. The sperm stored under the laptop became more sluggish and showed signs of DNA damage.
- Ditch the bath. The optimum temperature for sperm production is 34.5 degrees Celsius, which is slightly below body temperature. A three-year University of California study found that five out of 11 men who stopped taking hot baths experienced a sperm count rise of almost 500 percent.
- Drink coffee – but not too much. Researchers from Sao Paolo University in Brazil studied 750 men and concluded that drinking coffee can improve the swimming speed of human sperm, although whether this means pregnancy rates are higher among coffee drinkers is unclear. Other studies, though, have suggested that drinking just three cups of coffee a day can cause genetic mutations in sperm, making it harder for them to successfully fertilise an egg.
Herbs can help support sperm count and boost male fertility
Through the ages, men have credited herbs with fertility and sexual prowess. From the Chinese goat herder who first noticed his goats got randy when they ate the plant that has become known as Horny Goat Weed, to the London apothecaries who dispensed the same sexual enhancement herb to William Shakespeare’s contemporaries, over the ages, men have looked to herbs to boost sexual power.
In the early days, no distinction was made between impotence (the inability to get an erection), low, desire and infertility, so the herbal supplements they used were expected to treat all sexual problems.
Since those times, science has helped us understand the biology of sexual performance better and we now understand that erectile dysfunction, low sex drive and infertility are separate problems, which may have different causes and require different treatments.
The traditional herbs used to enhance virility have been researched and refined by modern science so men and women can be assured of quality extracts of identified active ingredients.
4 ways herbs help increase fertility and sexual prowess
1. Herbs that increase sperm volume & health
The male sperm count has declined significantly over the last four decades, a trend that is attributed to a number of factors, including chemical contamination and a degraded natural environment.
A low sperm count usually leads to an inability to father children, but it can also be associated with other hormonal issues, and can be worsened by stress, anxiety and poor general health. Herbs with the strongest reputation for male fertility and increased sperm health include Tribulus Terrestris, Horny Goat Weed and Saw Palmetto.
2. Herbs that increase penile blood flow
Horny Goat Weed has been found to contain PDE 5 inhibitors – the same active ingredient that is the basis for modern erection drugs. In fact, one modern drug lost a patent claim to be the “first PDE 5 treatment for erectile dysfunction” because it was proven Chinese medicine had used Horny Goat Weed for ED for centuries before.
PDE 5 inhibitors work by promoting blood flow to the penis and there are now several herbs - including Tribulus Terrestris, Yohimbe, and Gingko Biloba – that have been shown to increase blood flow to the penis by helping relax the smooth muscle in the penis.
3. Herbs that boost testosterone
Testosterone is an important male hormone essential for getting erections. Low levels of testosterone can often result in impotence. Several herbs have been identified which are thought to help the body increase testosterone levels, or to increase the male hormone by releasing ‘bound’ testosterone. They include Tribulus Terrestris, Horny Goat Weed, Avena Sativa, Mucuna Pruriens and Tongkat Ali.
4. Herbs that improve libido & low sex drive
Several herbs are recommended for treating low sex drive in both men and women, including Horny Goat Weed, Tribulus Terrestris, Damiana, Yohimbe, Avena Sativa, Maca, Muira Puama and Ginseng.
One of the benefits for men in using herbal treatments for erectile dysfunction is that they treat the whole body. Herbs used for their sexual potency help increase libido in multiple ways, such as by calming anxiety, increasing nerve response, balancing hormones and lifting mood.
Prostate health is also important for fertility
The prostate gland is a small male reproductive organ in men, located just below the bladder. The urethra (the tube carrying urine from the bladder) runs through the middle of the prostate to the penis, letting urine flow out of your body.
One of the main roles of the prostate is to produce the fluid that protects sperm, which is vital for male fertility and a healthy sex life. The muscles of the prostate also help to project seminal fluid into the urethra during ejaculation.
One component of prostate fluid, an enzyme called Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), aids in the success of sperm by liquefying semen that has thickened after ejaculation. This thinning action allows sperm to swim more freely. The prostate gland also filters and removes toxins that may surround sperm making sure that quality sperm is produced.
How Herbal Ignite for Men and Women and Prostate Power Flow help support fertility
Herbal Ignite for Men also increase men’s health and libido, boosts testosterone levels and improves nerve function and genital blood flow. Herbal Ignite for Women supports pre-menstrual tension and menopause, helps restore hormone levels to a healthy balance and improves libido.
When taken daily, Prostate Power Flow’s formulation works to support prostate health and contains lycopene. Lycopene can also help in improving sperm quality, mobility and volume of sperm, increasing sperm count by up to 70%.
The three key herbs in Herbal Ignite for Him – Tribulus Terrestris, Horny Goat Weed and Avena Sativa – have been used in traditional medicine for centuries to rejuvenate men’s sexual and hormonal health. The herb Tribulus Terrestris, in particular, has also been found to naturally boost testosterone levels and is available in capsule form in herbal supplements like Herbal Ignite.
- Tribulus Terrestrislifts testosterone levels and improves sexual activity and muscular strength. It also generates male energy, confidence and stamina and men using Herbal Ignite report an improved sense of wellbeing. While Tribulus Terrestris supports and assists the body's natural production of testosterone it should be clearly understood that it is not a hormone supplement. By promoting the production of the body's own hormones, it works only within the body's natural limits to help men achieve their strength and muscular potential. Tribulus Terrestris will not cause the body to indefinitely produce increasing amounts of testosterone – rather, it balances natural hormone levels.
- Horny Goat Weedincreases desire and sexual performance. The active ingredients in this herb are PDE-5 inhibitors, which increase blood flow to the penis and help with better erections.
- Avena Sativarelieves stress and increases sexual desire. Many men notice a decline in sex drive and sexual strength because of the effects of stress and long working hours; this herb helps counter the effects of our tough modern lifestyle.
Herbal Ignite for Her contains four key ingredients:
- Damiana is the key fatigue and stress fighter in Herbal Ignite for Women. Known as the ‘ultimate feel good herb’ for women, it combats fatigue, relaxes the body, reduces stress and anxiety, lifts mood and enhances sexual response. It also helps balance female hormone levels, control hot flushes and is renowned for its libido enhancing qualities.
- Dong Quai is known as ‘the women’s herb’ or ‘female ginseng’ because it is recognised in traditional Asian medicine as an excellent all-purpose women’s herb. It is used to calm nerves, relieve anxiety and mood swings, aid in the treatment of various skin conditions, promote youthfulness, reduce stress and is also considered effective in treating cancer. It also helps restore hormonal balance, improve menstrual regularity and relieves PMS and hot flushes.
- Tribulus Terrestris is a general tonic that balances hormone levels, boosts vitality and sense of wellbeing and supports reproductive and sexual health. It also supports sex drive, ovulation and reproduction.
- Horny Goat Weed has been used in traditional medicine as an aphrodisiac to increase libido, improve sexual response and function and create a feeling of wellbeing during menopause. Horny Goat Weed has been used since ancient times to promote physical and mental energy. It stimulates libido by enhancing sexual response and orgasm, relieves symptoms associated with PMS and menopause, balances hormones, relieves stress and aids in the treatment of osteoporosis. Horny goat weed contains a flavonoid called Icariin that assists to increase nitric oxide levels relaxing genital muscles in men and women, promoting erections and orgasms. Horny goat weed influences the stress hormone cortisol to help relieve stress.
Herbal Ignite has been used successfully by thousands of men and women in New Zealand and Australia to help beat stress and fatigue, boost libido and sexual satisfaction. It is 100% natural and free of unpleasant side effects. It is made in New Zealand to the highest standards, with thorough testing and guarantees of no adulteration or undeclared ingredients.
Herbal Ignite for Her Customer Testimonial
I have been taking Herbal Ignite for the last couple of months and I have absolutely loved it, I have been trying to get pregnant for the last 2 years and have been unsuccessful, but since taking herbal ignite I have just found out that I’m pregnant :) - Aimee W*
Prostate PowerFlow contains the following four key active ingredients:
Saw Palmetto. Saw Palmetto is commonly used in Europe and the U.S as a treatment for an enlarged prostate. Some small studies have shown Saw Palmetto might help with BPH symptoms in several ways. You may need to get up less often at night to urinate, it can improve your flow when you do go, and it can ease painful urination.
- Tomato-derived lycopene supports a healthy prostate and has been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers. It can help stop the enlargement of the prostate and prevent this condition from progressing to prostate cancer. Lycopene can also help in improving sperm quality, mobility and volume of sperm, increasing sperm count by up to 70%.
- Selenium provides antioxidant protection. Prostate Power Flow provides up to 50 percent of the Selenium RDA to support men’s prostate health in New Zealand (RDA varies in different countries).
- Zinc is necessary for the manufacture of testosterone, which is the key male hormone for potency and fertility. Low zinc levels may contribute to low sperm count and low libido.
Get the fertility support you need from Intenza
Fertility doesn’t have to be a life sentence. For many, improved fertility is possible with the right diagnosis and treatment. Contact Intenza today to take the first steps toward a life of fertility.
Disclaimer. This information is provided for general informational purposes only and does not substitute for the advice provided by your medical professional. Always seek specific medical advice for treatment appropriate to you. Individual results may vary and are not guaranteed.