Is Your Infertility The Result of Medical Negligence?

Infertility is a widespread issue, and one of the most frustrating aspects is that there are so many factors that can cause it. Nobody really expects infertility to stem from treatment - or lack thereof - from medical professionals, yet it does happen. Figures say that up to 15% of couples struggle with infertility, and that around half of these cases are down to fertility in the male, and the other half in the female. Here we discuss the most common causes of infertility in both men and women, the issues resulting from them, and what to do if you have become infertile as a result of medical negligence.

Infertility in Women

A lot of women’s fertility issues stem from problems with ovulation that are not necessarily brought on by other any factor. Often this can be diagnosed and treated medically by a doctor, who can monitor a woman’s fertility throughout treatment and advise her accordingly. In some instances, infertility is a symptom of underlying issues which, if left undiagnosed can cause damage and long-term frustration.

Undiagnosed conditions are a prevalent cause of infertility. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that causes small cysts on the ovaries and in many cases, excessive levels of male hormones, which can cause problems conceiving. Thyroid issues can also lead to infertility, among other problems, and medical assistance can help to accommodate and treat it. Similarly, a number of kinds of cancer can cause infertility, as well as a host of other problems, particularly if not spotted soon enough. If either of these conditions goes undiagnosed, a woman might miss out on the chance to treat them, and correct her fertility issues.

Injuries or damage sustained while giving birth to a previous child can cause problems conceiving later children. Trauma to the uterus, cervix or vagina during childbirth can prevent the conception of children later on, and cause a number of other life-long concerns. Such injuries can be caused by medical professionals through improper removal of the placenta, improper use (or lack thereof) of episiotomy, or improper suturing following birth. Too often, women sustain injuries during the childbirth process, but assume them to be a normal part of giving birth, and never seek help or diagnosis for them.

Certain surgical procedures can cause fertility issues in women if they are performed incorrectly or negligently. Surgery to treat an ectopic pregnancy, or other operations on the pelvic area, such as on the cervix or even the appendix, can cause damage to the reproductive organs and result in infertility if not carried out correctly. Botched or otherwise failed attempts at female sterilisation can lead to fertility complications too.

Infertility in Men

Often, cases of male infertility are down to poor quality sperm, low sperm count, or erectile issues. Again, many of these can be dealt with by a GP, once the cause is identified. Some medications can also affect fertility in men, so if experiencing such problems while on prescribed drugs, consult with a doctor. However, there are some more serious causes of male infertility.

Chromosomal defects can lead to abnormally developed reproductive organs and diminished fertility in men. Conditions such as cystic fibrosis, Kallmann’s syndrome and Kartagener’s syndrome can cause problems in development. Certain kinds of cancer can lead to infertility, and of course, if left undiagnosed, can be very serious, while a history of chemotherapy or radiotherapy can have had an impact on a man’s fertility.

Surgeries earlier in life - for example, for undescended testicles - can have caused undetected damage and cause fertility issues, while injuries to the groin or testicles can also have an impact. Although not quite so serious causes of infertility, experts advise that men avoid tight clothing or prolonged exposure to extreme heat, such as saunas and steam room, to encourage healthy sperm production.

Other Factors

There are some conditions that can affect both men and women and have a detrimental effect on fertility. In men, chlamydia, gonorrhoea and HIV/AIDS can all have a serious impact on fertility, causing damage either to sperm production or to the passages that transport the sperm from the testes, while in women, such infections can spread to the uterus, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). In addition to problems with fertility, these infections also take a toll on healthy sexual activity, and can be transmitted to partners.

In some cases, no direct cause of infertility can be detected in either partner for two years or more, and a doctor will simply call it unexplained fertility. Should this be the diagnosis, the doctor will advise on how to progress.

Infertility Caused by Negligence

As touched on above, in serious cases of medical malpractice or negligence, routine procedures can be messed up, resulting in problems conceiving. It may not be immediately obvious if you have ended up infertile as a result of a medical professional’s poor practice, particularly if it is linked to an historic surgery or treatment that you had considered successful until experiencing fertility issues later on. Testing and investigation by a doctor may uncover the source of fertility problems and link it to previous treatment or surgery.

In other cases, infertility can be caused by misdiagnosis or failing to spot serious conditions, such as cancer or thyroid problems. If you have been made infertile, or potentially missed out on your opportunity to conceive because of conditions that went undetected by medical professionals, or because of poor practice in surgery or other treatment, another medical professional may be able to give an indication of how advanced your condition is, and whether or not former appointments had failed to identify it.

If you find that your infertility is the direct result of medical negligence or malpractice, seek the advice of a legal professional with a history in personal injury and clinical negligence claims. Such professionals have the expertise and experience to examine prospective cases of medical negligence and determine how a court of law would see the case, and where liability for the damage would be placed.

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