Infertility affects both men and women. Infertility means not being able to become pregnant after having carefully timed, unprotected sex for a year. If a woman gets pregnant but keeps having miscarriages or stillbirths, that's also called infertility.
Infertility is fairly common. According to the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction (ISAR), infertility affects about 10 to 14 percent of the Indian population, with one out of six couples being impacted in the metropolitan cities.
There are multiple environmental, genetic, and acquired factors that lead to declining fertility in the present reproductive age groups that are between 25 to 34 years.
Factors leading to infertility in men and women
1) Poor and sedentary lifestyle - Sedentary lifestyle has obvious health risks like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Studies suggest that physical inactivity and sedentary behavior in men and women is a leading cause of infertility.
2) Stress and anxiety - Several recent studies have found links between the day-to-day stress levels of women and lowered chances of pregnancy.
3) The heat generated by sitting for long hours at work affects the quality of sperms. Wearing tight undergarments or jeans for long hours also has a detrimental effect on men. Occupational heat exposure is another significant risk factor for male infertility.
4) Poor dietary choices like frozen, instant, and packaged food items with preservatives, refined sugar, and carbohydrates can also lead to infertility. Lack of probiotics in packaged and preserved food alters the balance of the vaginal bacterial flora, which is very essential in preventing vaginal, cervical, and uterine infections. Sometimes, vaginal infections may result in infertility in women.
Additionally, ovulation dysfunction and delayed periods can be the after-effects of poor diet in many women. In men, the quality of sperm is directly influenced by dietary habits.
5) Lack of knowledge of sexual and reproductive health in adolescence (between 13 to 19 years of age), leads to sexually transmitted diseases, causing irreversible infertility.
6) The lack of knowledge about the fertile window is very also a common factor. Couples do not have or miss having sex during the fertile window, either because of personal commitments or because of living in different places related to their jobs.
7) Early menarche in girls has further aggravated the problem of infertility, as their reproductive lives start early and end early.
8) Exposure to environmental pollution has reduced the quantity and quality of sperms in men.
9) Smoking, consumption of alcohol, and electromagnetic radiation from gadgets are other factors that can reduce the sperm count drastically and damage the DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) of the sperm. Women smokers experience a faster decline in their ovarian reserve (the capacity of the ovary to provide egg cells that are capable of fertilization).
In conclusion, all of the above factors are modifiable. Choosing to live a healthy, active, and stress-free life can restore fertility in many couples. Counseling before starting your sexual life, safe contraception counseling, seeking prenatal advice can go a long way in reducing these issues. The young generation should be aware of these factors which endanger their fertility and seek proper counseling before planning a pregnancy.