A Word with the DOCTOR
by Dr John Winsor
The Sunday Times of Malta

Infertility - a common problem

INFERTILITY is a problem that affects something like one couple in every ten.

Think about that. It is a remarkable figure. One out of every ten couples can't have a baby which they desperately want.

There are said to be approximately 40 possible physical causes of infertility, although you could probably find more if you looked hard enough.

Among women, the common problems are a failure of ovulation and a blockage of the fallopian tubes (often caused by some previous infection).

Among men (who are just likely to be the cause of infertility as their partners), the problems commonly include failure to produce spermatozoa in sufficient numbers, and a failure to produce spermatozoa of good enough quality.

Those disorders can themselves be traced back to other problems in many causes.

When a woman fails to ovulate, for example, the cause may be a specific disorder such as endometriosis or a general complaint such as a sudden weight loss.

When a man doesn't produce enough sperm, or produces sperm of an inferior quality, the basic cause may be an old infection, such as mumps, or an accident.

Of course, there can be mechanical causes for infertility. A man who is impotent, or who ejaculates prematurely, is unlikely to impregnate his partner.

A couple who make love only once a year are unlikely to have a baby.

Generally speaking, unless a woman is over the age of 30 it isn't usually necessary to investigate a case of alleged infertility until a couple have been having intercourse without any form of contraception for two years.

Well before that time limit is reached, there are a number of things that a couple can do to enhance their chances of having a child.

Having sex as close as possible to the moment of ovulation is a good starting point as any.

Most women ovulate 14 days before the end of their menstrual cycle, so sex at that time is far more likely to result in a pregnancy than sex just before or after a period.

To ensure that this sperm is kept in the best possible condition, a man should avoid tight jeans, keep out of hot baths and saunas, and sit with his legs apart as often as possible. Sperm are very susceptible to unwanted heat.

After intercourse, a woman who wants to get pregnant should stay in bed half an hour, draw up her knees and put a pillow under her bottom. These actions are designed to improve the chances of a sperm getting into and through the cervix and meeting an egg.