Today, it is estimated that one in six couples is infertile. About 40 % of the time infertility is caused by low sperm count and 40 % of the time by a woman’s inability to conceive. For individuals that trying or considering procreating, personal hygiene must take priority as infection and infertility go hand in hand.
The relationship between Infection and Infertility
One of the most common causes of female infertility and ectopic pregnancies are repeated reproductive tract infections. The infections usually originate in the lower genital tract as cervicitis or vaginitis and can manifest themselves through genital pain, abnormal vaginal discharge, burning and itching when urinating. A large number of these infections are facilitated by poor hygiene.
Repeated bacterial infections are a common cause for damaged or blocked fallopian tubes. When there are problems with the fallopian tubes it’s difficult for the egg to reach the uterus for implantation. Other problems that can lead to infertility may include a fusion of the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries with the surrounding tissue.
Reoccurring yeast infections can also impact fertility. An unnatural balance of Candida within the vagina can make it very difficult for sperm to pass through and reduce fertility.
In all these situations it’s difficult to conceive because there is an interference with the direct transportation of the egg or sperm.
Importance of Female hygiene
Vaginal mucous membranes are an extension of the body’s immune system, providing the first line of defense against infection. When the mucous membranes are washed away, dried out, or lack the necessary nutrients and probiotics to maintain balance, ascending infections have the opportunity to colonize the uterus, especially during menstruation when the cervix is slightly open. And since uterine infections have been linked to premature birth, infertility, and spontaneous abortion, practicing female hygiene is critical.
Adopting healthy hygiene practices are important not only for keeping infections at bay but also for preventing the escalation of existing ones.
Douching is a particular habit that should be avoided. During menstruation, the cervix is partially opened, and thus infections from the vagina can be extended in the cervix.
Regular douching has been associated with vaginal bacteriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer, preterm birth, STDs, HIV transmission, recurrent infections with Candida, ectopic pregnancies, and infertility.
In order to reduce the chances of inserting dangerous bacteria in the vagina, women and men should practice careful fingernail hygiene. The skin also has its own probiotic strains that help maintain our health, therefore it is essential not to use any anti-bacterial soaps that could harm these probiotic colonies.
Importance of Male hygiene
Men are not exempt from these dangers as well. Repeated infections with STDs can also cause scarring, impair sperm function and block sperm passage.
By bathing before and after sexual intercourse and by limiting exposure to oral infections transmitted during oral sex, men can significantly reduce their risk of contracting chronic infections and STDs, thereby improving sperm quantity and motility.
Oral Infection and Infertility
Another aspect of hygiene that men and women should consider is that oral infection and infertility go hand in hand.
Several studies have observed a correlation between a low-grade systemic inflammation caused by chronic bacterial infections in the oral cavity that may have a local effect within the endometrium.
A study presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology revealed that women who had infections in the oral cavity took two months longer to conceive than women without gum disease.
While adjusting for other factors, the study determined that Caucasian women that had gum disease were 2.88 times more likely to take longer than a year to conceive compared to Caucasian women without gum disease.
While the mechanism behind this observation is not yet completely understood and requires more research, the studies suggest that oral infections, such as periodontitis, have a similar systemic effect to other inflammatory conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis.
More in this study on NCBI.
Male fertility has also been found to be affected by poor oral hygiene. Studies have linked poor oral hygiene and periodontitis to a low sperm count. The men participating in the study that had poor oral hygiene were found to have bacteria present in the semen. Bacteria has the ability to kill healthy sperm, resulting in subnormal sperm count. If left untreated, chronic infection in the oral cavity can drastically affect a man’s ability to procreate.
More in this study on NCBI.
Author’s Note on Infection and Infertility
Both men and women need to be aware of the fact that infection and infertility go hand in hand. Adopting healthy hygiene habits is a must to maintaining a healthy reproductive system.
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