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  • Infertility
    • Causes of infertility in women
      • complications associated with some STI's e.g. if untreated chlamydia can lead to infertility
      • blocked or twisted oviducts e.g. due to infection
      • lining of the uterus does not develop properly, preventing implantation
      • failure of the ovary to release an egg
      • vagina is usually a hostile environment for sperm. bacteria living on the wall of the vagina produces acids, as do some of the cells of the vagina. seminal fluid contains an alkali which neutralises these secretions however if the environment is too acidic or the lining is too think, sperm may not be able to survive
    • Causes of infertility in men
      • impotence
      • males may not produce enough sperm or the sperm may not be healthy - smoking and excess alcohol may contribute
    • Treatment
      • in vitro (glassware) fertilisation
        • procedure in which the ova are collected and then fertilised outside a woman's body
        • hormone treatment is given first to produce multiple ova
        • these are removed surgically from the ovaries and then donated sperm are mixed with the ova in a laboratory
        • the woman is also given hormone treatment to ensure her uterus lining has thickened and is prepared for implantation
      • Hormone Treatment
        • fertility drugs containing hormones are given to women to increases the production of eggs, therefore increasing the probability of fertilisation
      • Embryo transfer
        • embryos are checked with a microscope to see if they are healthy
        • any viable embryos are placed in the woman's uterus
        • the process will only be successful if these embryos are then able to implant in the uterus lining
        • it is a balance between trying to achieve a successful pregnancy and avoiding multiple births, so usually only a small number of embryos are placed in the uterus
    • Controversy
      • fertility treatment hit the headlines in 1978, with the birth of Louise Brown, the first 'test-tube' baby, born through IVF
        • the technique was pioneered by Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe at a clinic in Cambridge but it generated a great deal of controversy
      • many people have ethical or religious issues with the idea that IVF involved intervention from 'man' or that there was also a greater risk of multiple births, posing a risk to the life of some of the babies or the mother herself
        • some people still share these concerns today, especially now as it is possible to screen embryos for abnormalities and to check for the gender or the embryos before they are placed in the woman's uterus


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