Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
Ovulation normally occurs around day 14 in a 28 day cycle. Ovulation means that the egg which grows in a fluid filled sac called the ‘follicle’ is released. This egg is then picked up by the fallopian tube and the egg travels along the tube towards the uterine cavity. After intercourse, sperms are deposited in the upper vagina. Normally, for pregnancy to occur these sperms must swim from the upper vagina into the uterus through the cervix and then reach the egg within the fallopian tube. ‘Fertilization’ or union of the egg with the sperm to form the ‘embryo’ occurs in the fallopian tube after which the embryo travels to the uterus where it implants and grows.
Tubal Factor Infertility
Infertility is sometimes caused by internal damage to the reproductive organs. Many women experience problems with their ovaries or sometimes uterus and therefore may have difficulty in conceiving.
Sometimes, the fallopian tube may be damaged. 20-25% of couples are unable to conceive because of damaged fallopian tubes. If your fallopian tubes become damaged, it can make it very hard for your egg to pass into your uterus and for the sperms to reach the egg. This can make conception difficult or even impossible. However, there are a number of methods used to test whether the fallopian tubes are open or not. There are also treatments to help you achieve pregnancy despite damaged tubes.
The Male Reproductive System & Sperm Defects
The sperm is the sex cell which is produced by the male. Sperms are capable of active movement and they are suspended in a fluid called seminal fluid.
The male reproductive system is made up of the testes within which sperms are produced and a rather complicated system of tubules through which sperms are transported. The reproductive organs of the male are both inside and outside the abdomen. The parts of the male reproductive system include-
The testes – which is the organ that produces the sperms
The duct (tube) system, which is made up of the epididymis and the vas deferens which store and transport the sperms
The accessory glands, which include the seminal vesicles and prostate gland which produce the fluid part of the semen which in turn provide nourishment to the sperms.
The penis which is the male sexual organ
In an adult, the two testes produce and store millions of tiny sperm cells. The testes are oval-shaped and grow to be about 5 cm x 3 cm in diameter. They contain thin, highly coiled tubes called seminiferous tubules within which sperms are produced. The testes also produce a hormone called testosterone. Testosterone is the hormone that produces a deep voice, bigger muscles, and body and facial hair, and it also stimulates the production of sperm.
From the testes arise two coiled tubes called the epididymis. There is one epididymis on each side. This is where sperms are stored temporarily after they are produced from the testes. The two epididymis (one from each side) join the vas deferens which is a muscular tube, one on each side. The vas deferens receives the sperms from the epididymis.
The epididymis and the testes hang in a pouch-like structure outside the abdomen called the scrotum. This bag of wrinkled skin helps to regulate the temperature of testes, which need to be kept cooler than body temperature to produce sperm. The scrotum changes size to maintain the right temperature. When the body is cold, the scrotum shrinks and becomes tighter to hold in body heat. When it’s warm, the scrotum becomes larger and more relaxed to get rid of extra heat.
As the vas deferens from both sides travel into the abdomen they are joined by sac like structures called the seminal vesicles. The vas deferens and seminal vesicles join together to form the ejaculatory ducts which empty the sperms into the urethra. This is the final tube which carries sperms through the penis to the outside.
This is a picture of a mature sperm. It has a head which contains important genetic material and that is the portion which enters the egg and fertilizes it. The neck or midpiece provides energy for movement and the tail helps the sperm to swim towards the egg.
The male sex organs work together to produce and release semen into the reproductive system of the female during sexual intercourse. The male reproductive system also produces sex hormones, which help a boy develop into a sexually mature man during puberty.
When a baby boy is born, he has all the parts of his reproductive system in place, but it isn’t until puberty that he is able to reproduce. When puberty begins, usually between the ages of 10 and 14, the pituitary gland — which is located near the brain — secretes hormones that stimulate the testicles to produce testosterone. The production of testosterone brings about many physical changes. Although the timing of these changes is different for every guy, the stages of puberty generally follow a set sequence.
During the first stage of male puberty, the scrotum and testes grow larger.
Next, the penis becomes longer, and the seminal vesicles and prostate gland grow.
Hair begins to appear in the pubic area and later it grows on the face and underarms. During this time, a male’s voice also deepens.
Boys also undergo a growth spurt during puberty as they reach their adult height and weight.
A male who has reached puberty will produce millions of sperm cells every day. Each sperm is extremely small: only 1/600 of an inch (0.05 millimeters long). Sperm develop in the testicles within a system of tiny tubes called the seminiferous tubules. At birth, these tubules contain simple round cells, but during puberty, testosterone and other hormones cause these cells to transform into sperm cells. The cells divide and change until they have a head and short tail, like tadpoles. The head contains genetic material (genes). The sperm use their tails to push themselves into the epididymis, where they complete their development. It takes sperm about 4 to 6 weeks to travel through the epididymis.
The sperm then move to the vas deferens, or sperm duct. The seminal vesicles and prostate gland produce a whitish fluid called seminal fluid, which mixes with sperm to form semen when a male is sexually stimulated. The penis, which usually hangs limp, becomes hard when a male is sexually excited. Tissues in the penis fill with blood and it becomes stiff and erect (an erection). The rigidity of the erect penis makes it easier to insert into the female’s vagina during sexual intercourse. When the erect penis is stimulated, muscles around the reproductive organs contract and force the semen through the duct system and urethra. Semen is pushed out of the male’s body through his urethra — this process is called ejaculation. Each time a guy ejaculates, it can contain up to 500 million sperm.
When the male ejaculates during intercourse, semen is deposited into the female’s vagina. From the vagina the sperm make their way up through the cervix and move through the uterus with help from uterine contractions. If a mature egg is in one of the female’s fallopian tubes, a single sperm may penetrate it, and fertilization, or conception, occurs.
This fertilized egg is now called a zygote and contains 46 chromosomes — half from the egg and half from the sperm. The genetic material from the male and female has combined so that a new individual can be created. The zygote divides again and again as it grows in the female’s uterus, maturing over the course of the pregnancy into an embryo, a fetus, and finally a newborn baby.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
The ovaries are a pair of glands that lie on either side of the uterus (womb). Each ovary is about the size of a large marble. The ovaries make ova (eggs) and various hormones. Hormones are chemicals that are made in one part of the body, pass into the bloodstream, and have an effect on other parts of the body.
- Ovulation means egg production. This normally occurs once a month when you release an ovum (egg) into the fallopian tube which is attached to the uterus (womb). Before an ovum is released at ovulation, it develops within a little fluid filled sac called a follicle (tiny cyst). Each month several follicles start to develop, but normally just one fully develops and then gets released.
- The main hormones that are made in the ovaries are oestrogen and progestogen – the main ‘female’ hormones. These hormones help with the development of breasts, and also control the menstrual cycle. The ovaries also normally make small amounts of ‘male’ hormones (androgens) such as testosterone.